In some parts of Africa, there is a bizarre cultural practice referred to as sexual rite of passage. It is very common in Malawi. This consists of an initiation process where men called “hyena” are paid to have unprotected sex with young girls as young as 12 years old after their first menstruation. In Malawi a “hyena” is any man hired by families to have sex with girls after their first menstruation. Sexual rite of passage also known as sexual cleansing is seen as a way to ritually cleanse girls after their first period, usually within the first three days. The girls are given impression that this would protect them from evil that would befall them for failing to do so. They were told they will get infections or their skins will strangely peel off is they failed to have unprotected sex with a man after their initiation. Sexual cleansing also happens in other life stages such as after an abortion or when a woman becomes a widow.
Sexual cleansing is seen as a sacred rite when performed as a ritual, having the power to cleanse evil spirits and sanctify the girls involved. This practice which is oftentimes the young girls are forced to do against their will is part of the initiation into womanhood. The young girls are led to the initiation camp by women in the village called anamkungwi in some parts of Malawi. At the camp the girls are taught how to have sex with men by showing them various positions and asking them to lie on top of each other to demonstrate how it happens. After the initiation the girls are told to go home and have unprotected sex with men older than them to cleanse them of childhood. The girls are told that they were now woman enough and should engage in sexual act which must be unprotected. In some villages, “hyenas” hired for this task occasionally have sex with many girls in a single village who have gone through initiation together. The health hazard seemed not to bother the women who led their daughters and nieces into this act. Sexual cleansing has since been outlawed in Malawi though some villages still practice it secretly.