Rite of Passage Pressures Little Girls to Have Cleansing Sex

Initiation Camp Encourages Cleansing Sex to Remove Child "Dust"In Malawi young girls are sent to camp where they learn about sex. These girls as young as six-years-old are made to attend initiation camp, which is considered a rite of passage, where they are pushed into sex at a very early age. During these rite of passage summer camps these youth are taught sexually explicit content in detail and often go through initiations that result in cleansing sex.

One young girl named Grace who, at the time, was only 10-years-old and very excited when she learned that she would be going to summer camp with her friends. All the girls her age that lived in her southern Malawi village were going to this initiation camp. These children were counting down the days when they would attend this “summer camp” rite of passage experience.

Grace said they were all so happy because they had no idea what would take place there. She said once she finally got there the messages that were being taught literally stunned her. She was told that she should sleep with a man in order to rid herself of child “dust.” If she did not do it, she was told, her body would get diseased.

Grace and her friends were not only told to have sex they were also given a demonstration which involved one of the young girls lying down with one of the older women on top. She was told that she should dance with a man on top of her so she could make him happy.

Grace was puzzled because, along with the other girls in her village, she attended this camp with her family’s blessing. Unbeknownst to little Grace, she was actually attending a time-honored ritual which had passed through multiple generations.

The entire village makes sure their children attend this initiation ceremony otherwise they would not be accepted in the community, according to Jean Mweba. She said it boils down to being accepted or ostracized within the community. Mweba is an education program specialist for reproductive health and adolescent health at the United Nations Populations Fund.

According to Malawi Human Rights Commission, girls as young as six have been known to attend these camps. The commission is charged with investigating rights violations. They have condemned the sexual curriculum for these young girls but say the process to change cultural practices is extremely slow.

Researchers and human rights groups have found instances when a man, given the nickname Fisi or Hyena, has sex with newly initiated girls as part of the rite of passage. Men enter the girls’ room to see if they have really grown up by having sexual intercourse with them. In Malawi, according to national data, at least 10 percent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 has HIV/AIDS.

Malawi is ranked number 10 for the highest rate of child marriages world-wide. According to World Health Organization, half of this country’s children are married before they turn 18-years-old with 35 percent of all pregnancies from teenage mothers. Malawi also suffers with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The younger the girls are the more at risk they are for serious pregnancy related illnesses.

Grace who is now 15-years-old says she was not happy with that experience. She has been pressured to go for sexual cleansing since she came out of camp. Despite the peer pressure Grace never attended the “sexual cleansing” rituals. Many of her friends caved at the pressure but not Grace. Thanks to a local girl’s group called Girls Empowerment Network Grace learned the risks associated with unprotected sex and refused to partake.

Grace has made up her mind that she will wait until she finishes her education to consider marriage or the other sexual explicit lessons she learned at initiation camp.

In Malawi girls as young as six-years-old are sent to camp where they learn about and are encouraged to have sex. During these so-called rite of passage rituals these youth are taught sexually explicit content in detail and often go through initiations where they have sex with grown men.

By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)


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