Teenage sexual cleansing is a ritual that takes place in the remote southern part of Malawi. kusasa fumbi, loosely translated to brushing off the dust is seen as a rite of passage for teenagers once they hit puberty. Parents pay sex workers $5 to $7 to sleep with their daughters and ‘purify’ them after they have their first period. This act is believed to make the daughters better wives and also to ward off ill omens including diseases and misfortune that would otherwise affect not just the girl but also her family and her village at large.
The three day ritual can be performed by a selected future husband or a paid sex worker. The men who have forced sexual intercourse with these young women are known as hyenas. Hyenas are selected by the community and should be men of high standing within the community. The ritual takes place at night, so they can not be identified. Not only do the hyenas ‘purity’ teenagers, they also carry out the ritual on widows, women who have had abortion or after infidelity.
Before meeting the hyena the girls have to attend sexual initiation camps that are ran by the elderly women from the villages. Teenagers are gathered to get lessons that prepare them for their future role as wives. Here, the young woman is taught how to please a man, through dances that depict sexual acts.
Elderly women encourage the young ones not to resist since it is their culture. And the life of the entire village depends on it. Though the elderly women place their trust in this method for protection, the act has an opposite effect since unprotected sex puts these young women at the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
The Malawian government is trying to stamp out this practice by offering civic education starting at the grassroots. Numerous laws have been passed in an effort to discourage the said practice.