Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Child sex camps in Malawi slammed.

The custom in Malawi of sending girls to sexual initiation camps is just as harmful as child marriage and must end if the nation is serious about protecting girls' rights, a teenager who escaped being a child bride said.

Memory Banda, 18, said the tradition of early sexual initiation, seen as a way of preparing pubescent girls for marriage, was forcing girls to have sex and exposing them to the risk of HIV infection.

Banda said even if girls were not sent to the camps, they may receive a night time visit from an older man. Known as a "hyena", the man sent by village elders has sex with girls as young as nine to prepare them for marriage.

"It's forced sex," Banda told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Most girls end up being pregnant, and many drop out of school."
Child sex camps in Malawi slammed.
In February, Malawi passed a law banning child marriage and raised the minimum age for girls to marry to 18 in a move hailed by campaigners against the practice that affects half the girls in the country.

Banda's own sister was married at 11 to a man in his thirties, who had made her pregnant during a sexual initiation.

But Banda escaped her sister's fate because she was living with an aunt who supported her resistance to early marriage. She later joined the Girls Empowerment Network, a Malawi-based charity that tried for years to get lawmakers to end child marriage.

Banda said the priority now was to ensure the new law was enforced and to encourage village leaders to speak out against early sexual initiation.

"The law will make a big difference and have a big impact, but only if we work with communities and girls to address the issues openly," Banda said on the sidelines of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

Malawi has shown signs of progress with a growing openness to discussing girls' sexual rights and dozens of communities banning early sexual initiation, she added.

Critics say early marriage deprives girls of an education, increases the risk of domestic violence, death or serious injuries if they have babies before their bodies are ready.

Yet the practice persists because some societies view girls as a financial burden and others believe it will maximise fertility.
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