Malawi: Harmful Ritual Fueling New HIV Infection Among the Youth

Lilongwe — A focus group discussion by the Lilongwe District AIDS Coordinating Committee (DACC) with adolescents in traditional authorities Kalumbu, Chadza and Mazengera has revealed a hidden harmful cultural practice that is believed to be contributing to the spread of HIV and Aids.

Lilongwe District AIDS Coordinator Dumisani Chiwala told a DACC meeting Tuesday that girls from the age of eight are introduced into sex through a cultural practice called Mchezo wa Nkhandwe.

Mchezo wa Nkhandwe is a cultural practice whereby young girls are forced to sleep with older men selected by chiefs as part of the girls’ passage into adulthood. It is commonly practiced in funerals and installation of chiefs.

 “The focus group discussion revealed that adolescents who are involved are not allowed to reveal what happens during the cultural event.
 “They told us that chiefs give traditional herbs to the girls to protect them from getting pregnant so that they keep on taking part in their practices while adolescent boys guard the makeshift house where selected men have group unprotected sex with the adolescent girls,” said Chiwaya.

Youth Friendly Health Services Coordinator Annie Kachigamba described the practice as both sexual abuse and also a catalyst for continued spread of HIV and Aids.

“The girls and their parents are forced to participate in the practices and those who refuse or reveal about the practices are chased out of the villages. Our concern is on the future of the girls with the HIV pandemic which is widely spreading,” said Kachigamba.

Source: Allafrica.com

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