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Eric Aniva out of jail

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Eric Aniva, an HIV-positive Nsanje man jailed for two years after claiming families paid him to have sex with more than 100 women and girls, walked out of prison three months ago after serving his sentence

Aniva sparked outrage among women rights activists who wanted his sentence to be reviewed.

His lawyer, Michael Goba Chipeta, said Aniva was freed from prison in December last year having served his jail term although the court was yet to set a date to start hearing his appeal.

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“He served his sentence and was released in December last year while waiting for a date of appeal. The court gave the date way after he had been released and we just withdrew it because it had been rendered academic and of no practical effect,” Goba said.

Aniva was convicted in November 2016 on the charge of indulging in harmful practices, contrary to Section 5 of the Gender Equality Act of 2013, by sleeping with over 100 women and children, potentially infecting them with HIV, a virus that causes Aids.

In the Southern Region, men known as ‘fisi’ [hyena] are sent by village elders to have sex with girls as young as nine to “clean out the dust” of childhood and prepare them for marriage and also with new widows to rid them of their husband’s spirit.

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The sexual initiation ritual is one of several traditional practices that campaigners against child marriage are trying to eradicate in the southern African nation where half of girls are wed before they reach 18 years.

In 2015, Malawi raised the legal marrying age from 15 to 18, which activists hoped would end early sexual initiations.

Women’s rights groups expressed outrage over Aniva’s sentence, calling it too lenient and saying it would not deter would-be offenders.

“This is a disgrace and a big let-down to the women and girls of Malawi,” said Emma Kaliya, Executive Director of the Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre, in a statement.

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