Monday, 28 January 2019

Ritual Cleansing: Cultural Practices that Steal Young People's Innocence “I think there is so much we can do for the women and children who are victims of hyenas, gender-based violence, and all the other social evils that are out there”. This is what Malawi’s 2013 Big Brother Africa representative, Natasha Annie Tonthola, said during an interview with BBC’s Michael Wendling. Natasha explained the ordeal she went through as she was being traditionally ‘initiated’ into adulthood. Just as various national and international media channels were awash with a story about a man who was arrested for sleeping with young girls to cleanse and initiate them into adulthood; the celebrated entrepreneur cum girls’ rights activist, Natasha, came to the open and exposed the evils and dangers of such cultural practices. Honestly speaking; our society is full of different harmful cultural practices that lead to various sexual reproductive health challenges. Many young people like, contraction of Sexually Transmitted Infections including HIV, fueling child marriages as well as teen pregnancies and other associated consequences. These aforementioned challenges have been faced and still affecting new victims year in year out. Young people can avoid this kind of abuse by knowing their sexual reproductive health rights. No one is supposed to force you into having sex no matter what kind of influence that person has. When you get pregnant or an STI; it is the very same people who start discriminating and stigmatizing you. They are quick to force you into sex cleansing but they are always late to support when the ritual lands you in trouble. Young people; do not trust others to make sexual reproductive health decisions on your behalf. It is your life and when you are troubled by your community to undergo a harmful cultural practice you can report this by calling toll free child helpline on 116, Community Victim Support Unit or any nearest Youth Friendly Health Service Delivery Point that is close to your area. Remember; you have your sexual reproductive health rights and make wise and informed decisions. Do not let cultural beliefs and ritual steal your innocence …be assertive and report any form of abuse to remain cool and happy!

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