A Malawian man accused of having sex with 100 girls and women in a series of ritual cleansing acts, on Monday failed in his second bid to be freed on bail.
Prosecutor Christopher Botoman opposed the bail request for Eric Aniva over fears that he could “intimidate and influence” witnesses not to testify in court.
Given the “nature and seriousness of the offence and the severity of the punishment if convicted” it would “not be in the interest of justice to release the accused on bail.”
The prosecution also said the 45-year-old – who has said he is infected with the Aids virus – was likely to jump bail and cross the border into Mozambique.
But Aniva, whose first bid to secure bail was earlier this month, rejected the idea, saying he was “not scared” to face trial.
Malawi, which has one of the highest HIV infections in the world, criminalises sex with a person under the age of 16.
If he is found guilty of underage sex, Aniva could be imprisoned for life.
The little-known local practice of having sex with adolescent girls to mark their passage to womanhood is performed in southern Malawi by men known as “hyenas” at the behest of a girl’s parents after her first menstruation.
The ritual is believed to train girls to become good wives and protect them from disease, or misfortune could fall on their families or their village.
Aniva is said to have slept with at least 104 women and girls, some as young as 12, in a ritual that lasts three days. He said each family paid him a fee of between $4 and $7.
His two wives were both present at the court house.
“We want him back home. We are suffering because we have no food,” his 25-year-old wife Fanny told AFP.
“When he is around, we don’t suffer because he is a man and he finds means to bring food to the house.”
His second wife, Sophia, said he had long abandoned the “hyena” business.
“Thieves and murderers get released on bail, but what is wrong with our husband?” she said.