The Plight of Malawi’s Child Brides

“The average age of sexual debut is just 12, according to government research. In a few traditional communities, girls are forced to have sex with older men as part of rites initiating them into adulthood. But most have their first experience with a friend or relative.

Girls who have lost one or both parents to HIV/Aids are especially vulnerable to exploitation. In cities like Blantyre, it is not unusual for them to have several “boyfriends” who support them, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in Malawi. This in turn exposes them to the risk of infection with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

Some older men will marry young girls after their wives die of HIV/Aids because they believe sex with a virgin will “cleanse” them, says Banda. It is also traditional in some cultures for a man to marry his wife’s younger sister if she dies.” [Full story]