In Southern Madagascar, Local Custom Presses Girls into Sex at a Young Age

"Under local custom, single girls and women in some ethnic groups here are expected to offer sex to village men..."

Hunger often keeps Valopee awake at night, as do the men talking and laughing outside the door of her bare wooden hut in this southern Madagascar village.

They wait until late, hoping for sex. She lies on her hard floor with no mattress, wishing they would go away.

Under local custom, single girls and women in some ethnic groups here are expected to offer sex to village men and passing strangers. They can brush off some, but it is shameful to refuse a visiting outsider, and difficult for girls to resist determined older men.

Many girls are moved out of cramped family houses by their mid-teens and given their own small huts near the family home, a rite of passage in preparation for marriage.

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