The State has changed the charges from defilement to engaging in harmful practices against Eric Aniva, the Nsanje man arrested on presidential order. He confessed to defiling young girls and sleeping with widows when he was HIV positive.
Initially, the man was charged with defilement contrary to Section 138 of the Penal Code.
However, when the matter came up for hearing on Thursday at Nsanje Magistrates Court, Aniva was charged with engaging in harmful practices contrary to Section 5 (1-2) of the Gender Equality Act of 2013, according to National Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa.
He said the change in the charges was necessary as it suits circumstances surrounding the case.
Said Gondwa: “Previously, we charged him with defilement because the involvement of underage children received more emphasis, but upon analysing the whole scenario, the charge has been changed to engaging in harmful practices.”
Defilement attracts a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if one is found guilty whereas under the new charge, Aniva faces a maximum fine of K1 million and five years imprisonment.
The said Section 5 of the Gender Equality Act 2013 reads: “. A person shall not commit, engage in, subject another person to, or encourage the commission of any harmful practice. . Any person who contravenes this Section commits an offence and is liable to a fine of K1 million and five years imprisonment.”
Aniva appeared before the magistrate’s court in Nsanje yesterday where he pleaded guilty and has since been remanded to Nsanje Prison pending police investigations.
Police have embarked on a hunt for perpetrators of the kulowa kufa sexual cleansing and sexual initiation for girls in Nsanje District.
Aniva’s arrest followed President Peter Mutharika’s directive to have him prosecuted following a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) story published on July 21 2016 outlining his role as a fisi (hyena) who sleeps with young girls and widows in sexual cleansing rituals.
Ironically, the local media had previously extensively reported on several harmful cultural practices. Several local institutions have also conducted and disseminated research findings on the said cultural practices, but there was never Executive action of such urgency.