Malawi Police officers in Mangochi district have set ablaze several initiation camps which were teaching children sexual skills instead of offering them “sound advice”.
Machinga District Police Spokesperson Dave Sulumba told the press that some initiation camps built along river banks and mountain slopes were teaching children sexual skills.
“We have indeed torched some initiation camps built along river banks and on mountain slopes. We are not against the cultural practice of chinamwali (initiation) but the government wants children to go to school,” he said.
Sulumba added that many traditional chiefs have supported the torching of the shacks being used as initiation camps because the new school year has started.
“There is realisation among most chiefs that initiation ceremonies are linked to teenage pregnancies and child marriages. These can be addressed by improving children’s access to basic education,” he added.
Initiation ceremonies in rural Malawi are regarded as the transitional passage from childhood to adulthood. During school holidays, children spend some weeks at initiation camps where they are taught household chores and how to conduct themselves once married.
Meanwhile, there are mixed reactions on whether the practice should continue. Some believe that initiation ceremonies are part of cultural preservation while others regard them as sex-training camps which fuel risky behaviour amongst the youth.
Some initiated youths have also complained of wasting their time at initiation camps where they claim the key lessons are about how to perform sex in bed.
“There is nothing like cultural education at such camps, as the focus is on sexual education and the singing of obscene songs,” said one initiate.
She added that the so-called graduation from childhood to adulthood through initiation ceremonies focuses on how to have sex and lose virginity.