A HIV-positive Malawian "hyena" was sentenced to two years hard labour for having unprotected sex with newly bereaved widows. Eric Aniva came to prominence earlier in 2016 after admitting to having sex with more than 100 women and girls without informing them of his secret HIV-positive status.

Aniva, who has been hired to have sex with girls as young as 12 in the past as part of a coming-of-age ritual, has been convicted of 'widow cleansing' which was outlawed in Malawi a few years ago. The practice encourages a widow to have sex after her husband dies, to avoid bringing bad luck, sudden death or illness to some, or all, of their clan.

The ritual of "cleansing" for young girls and widowed women is sometimes practised in rural communities in the country, where they are forced to have sexual intercourse with a paid sex worker called a "hyena".

Malawian President Peter Mutharika ordered Aniva's arrest in July 2016 following allegations of rape against young girls, but no one came forward to testify against Aniva.

Aniva was then charged with "harmful cultural practice" under Malawi's Gender Equality Act, for having sex with new widows.

Two women from his community in the Nsanje district, situated in the remote south of the country, testified against Aniva. During the trial Aniva argued that he is not guilty as he was hired by the families of young girls and women to have sex, often for as little as £3 a time.

His attorney, Michael Goba Chipeta, said he would appeal against the conviction, which was meted and handed out on Tuesday (22 November).

Speaking to the BBC about the three-day ritual, in which he takes a child's virginity, Aniva said: "Most of those I have slept with are girls, school-going girls. Some girls are just 12 or 13 years old, but I prefer them older.

"All these girls find pleasure in having me as their hyena. They actually are proud and tell other people that this man is a real man, he knows how to please a woman."

HIV-infected ‘hyena’
Eric Aniva, known as a 'hyena,' looks on while appearing in court in MalawiELDSON CHAGARA/AFP/Getty Images