Monday, October 18, 2004

On The Sexual Exploitation of Children in Kenya

A Two for One Digital Deal

This is a REPOST of two essays I wrote during a three day period a few days before the XMas season last year...

A Digital Examination by Onyango Oloo in Montreal

Essay Numero Uno:

WARNING: This Essay is X-Rated and is


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Over the last few days, Kenyans have been transfixed by lurid tales involving sex, sex and more sex.

The latest breaking story involves a coordinated Daily Nation/Kenya Police bust on Nairobi’s Koinange Street (part of that city’s red light district) that reportedly netted a Kenyan cabinet minister, an assistant minister and a member of parliament all apparently from the ruling NARC formation.

What outraged many Kenyans is the crude sexist double-standard: the hapless female sex workers were photographed, dragged to the police cells and later arraigned in court while their well heeled johns slipped under the cover of night, assisted by senior police officers(so the story goes) to their suburban digs to resume copulating with their middle class spouses after trying out the freaky peccadilloes offered by the sassy street-wise hookers- many rumoured to be university students even though the main campus is closed at the moment.

What some pundits are dubbing “K-Gate” came on the heels of the hullabaloo that greeted news that cabinet minister Martha Karua was hijacked in the middle of the night en route to the home of St. Paul chaplain Father Wamugunda from where the duo was going to retrieve a long promised document. Smutty imaginations went into overdrive with some sexist detractors implying that the minister was opening her legs wide to the celibate minister at the time of the car jacking. Martha Karua endured a lot of misogynist insinuations, but to her credit firmly and in a very dignified manner declared, quite correctly, that she owed nobody an explanation. To find the ire focused on Ms. Karua and not her male companion was not even the beef. Here was a situation where two Kenyans had survived a near death experience and all some people were concerned about was whether Martha’s panties were on or off.

Predictably both incidents were soon to be covered in all kinds of political speculation. I was not above it myself, musing impulsively about why these busts were being publicized now, together with the sudden “expose” of the second Mrs. Kibaki. I thought then that perhaps that KANU’s Mischief Dept. had decided to activate its moles in the Special Branch to embarrass the NARC government with these high profile smut sensationalist stories. The problem with my conspiracy theory was that the expose was in the Nation, which is known as a semi-official mouthpiece of the NAK faction while the Mrs. Kibaki story was broken in the Standard (which Moi used to have a substantial holding in the past, I do not know about now). In any case, with Raphael Tuju insisting on names to be named and MPs from across the NARC divide screaming blue murder, who knows if it was merely the foolhardy pursuit of some fresh undergraduate coochie on Koinange Street that was kicking up all this fuss or if there were more siasa intrigues…..

A lot of the outrage has been framed in very moral and religious terms. This is quite understandable.

But also misses the point.

The amazing thing about the discourse on prostitution in Kenya is the sheer hypocrisy that accompanies these public debates on morality and the supposed role play expected of our sleazy wanasiasa.

People, especially Kenyan men, act all outraged as if they have never considered the services of a sexual professional. Fists are shaken in the air, makohozi are spat on the ground to express the disgust of people who may or may not have brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbours and friends who are themselves busy sex workers on active nocturnal duty or retired courtesans.

Coming particularly from Christians, these superficial moral vituperations are no less amazing because most of these pious, sanctimonious souls are closer to the Pharisees and Sadducees of New Testament yore than the humble thirty something bachelor who was born in Bethlehem and died on a Roman imperialist cross. I mean, these “Christians” seems to have completely forgotten the fact that JC used to hang out with a well-known malaya called Mary Magdalene and once saved a woman accused of adultery by daring anyone who had not sampled goods provided by Mr. or Mrs. Jones to cast the first stone.

Prostitution is a reality in Kenya.

And guess what: many of these prostitutes are MALE yaani WANAUME.

Some of these KENYAN male hookers have KENYAN male clients.

And these clients are married, apparently “heterosexual” men:
Click Here
Click Here
Click Here

The remaining female clients of course seek out the gigolos, beach boys and other part-time male malayas who cater to the European, North American and Japanese women who come to Kenya on sexual safaris- or the local rich divorcees, upper-middle class wives, businesswomen and professionals who have decided to go beyond complaining that a good man is hard to find to screaming with pleasure that a hard man is good to find after years of dealing with flaccid domestic material that does not even respond to the near lethal doses of Viagra.

At one level I am finding it a bit bizarre for Raphael Tuju to be acting in a strident manner because of the Koinange Street raids.

How so?

Because prostitution helps to subsidize the Kenyan tourist sector to a significant degree.

Many of the watalii who come to Kenya have no interest in Mount Kenya, Lake Nakuru or Olduvai Gorge. They have seen all the elephants and lions they want to see on Discovery, National Geographic and reruns of Born Free.

So what brings some of them to Kenya?

It can be summarized in one word borrowed from Jamaican patois:


If you do not know what that word means ask a native of Lamu or Mombasa the meaning of the word
kashata or plead with a hipster from Dar es Salaam to explain to you what is meant by
kupeana uroda.

Punani for short term lease has made many a Canadian, New Zealander, Finn, Korean, Egyptian and even Iraqi for that matter jump on a plane heading for Nairobi hoping to get laid repeatedly and cheaply.

Forget those Hallmark inanities they scribble on those generic, scenic postcards featuring the elephant tusks at Kilindini Road (some of us prefer the old name ok?) in Mombasa.

What takes a mtalii to Florida (either in Mombasa or its Mud House cousin sister in Nairobi’s Koinange Street) is not any burning desire to learn Kimasaai or observe a traditional Gikuyu wedding, but plain old mpingis or nyaf nyaf if you prefer old school sheng.

Some of these tourists are part of a collective brotherhood (yes, it is mostly MEN who pay for sex) on the internet where they report on their Kenyan sexual safaris. Take a peek at this and I warn you beforehand that it is more than explicit; it is definitely HARD CORE so please do not open it if images and texts of a pornographic nature are offensive to you:
CLICK Here Knowing You are Opening a Very Sexually Explicit Link

Commercial sex work in Kenya became institutionalized with colonialism even though it was always present in the feudal city states of Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and elsewhere.

It is with the onset of ukoloni mkongwe (orthodox colonialism 1888 to 1963) that you see the rise of what the Luos call
Bodho, Ochodororo or Ochot Malaika, mostly in the towns (see for example, Luise White’s
The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi

[See also: Luise White: ‘‘Prostitution, Differentiation, and the World Economy: Nairobi 1899-1939,’’ in Marilyn J. Boxer and Jean H. Quataert, eds.,
Connecting Spheres: Women in the Western World, 1500 to the Present.]

And how about this book review that reveals an intriguing connection between sex work and trade in colonial Kenya:

“…Trouble Showed the Way: Women, Men, and Trade in the Nairobi Area, 1890-1990.(Review) (book reviews)
Journal of Social History, Fall, 1999, by Lynn M. Thomas

By Claire C. Robertson (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997. xii plus 341pp.).

“In Trouble Showed The Way, Claire Robertson brings insights and empathy gained through over two decades of research and writing on women and class in African history to an analysis of the Nairobi bean trade. Robertson's documentation of the crucial roles played by African women in feeding Nairobi broadens our understanding of the economic, gender, and urban history of Kenya. Echoing previous feminist scholarship, this study aims to demonstrate how women with few material resources have profoundly shaped the worlds in which they live. According to Robertson, trade is a logical thematic lens through which to explore issues of agency because central Kenyan women have largely constructed their identities through work.
“Robertson begins her study by analyzing concepts of womanhood in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century central Kenya. Relying on ethnographies and her own interpretations of Kikuyu proverbs and folktales, Robertson argues that previous scholars have underestimated the extent to which central Kenyan women were regarded as property. She explains that the caravan trade of the 1880s-90s contributed to the "commodification of women" by concentrating commerce in the hands of men while increasing the demand for women's agricultural labor. Robertson maintains that despite this property-like status, women were not "completely powerless victims." The reader, however, must wait until the penultimate chapter for a thorough discussion of women's councils and female initiation, the most important social institutions through which older women exerted authority. But even here, Robertson insists that women's power existed "apart from" and rarely "over" men.

“Women first began trading beans in Nairobi to acquire cash and goods for rural households. Within central Kenya, beans had long been regarded as a women's crop and trade commodity. Under colonialism, according to Robertson, women and beans suffered similar fates. Just as colonial policies "marginalized and devalued" women, maize replaced beans as the most favored food staple "in a case of prototypical agricultural imperialism." (3) Beans, however, remained a primary food stuff and, with increased European land alienation, trade became an even more important strategy for avoiding poverty. Or, as Robertson expresses the tenacity of the bean trade: "some beans and some women have indigestible qualities." (63)

“By the inter-war period, trade had become segregated by gender; men, with more capital and fewer household responsibilities, engaged in wholesale and long-distance trade, while women remained confined to small-scale trade along Nairobi streets or in illegal markets. These decades also mark the height of African men's anxieties over the sexual activities and social mobility of women traders. Previous scholars have explored how Kikuyu-speaking men considered Nairobi's property-owning prostitutes and missionaries' anti-clitoridectomy campaigns as threats to their political authority and moral order. Robertson expands our understanding of these anxieties by documenting how these men (including Jomo Kenyatta) understood women's trade in food stuffs as a pretext for selling sex. They clearly associated women's commercial success with their own decreasing control over women's bodies.

“Robertson persuasively argues that the most profound change in discourses and policies concerning women traders accompanied the late colonial state's efforts to foster the formation of stable working-class families supported by male breadwinners. Prior to the 1950s, European colonial officers, realizing that women traders fed Nairobi cheaply and efficiently, largely ignored African men's calls for increased regulation of women traders. During the Mau Mau rebellion and its aftermath, however, government efforts to promote law and order within Nairobi coalesced with the interests of wealthier male traders. Crackdowns on mobile traders, increased regulation of markets, and loan schemes that favored male traders, all worked to weaken the position of women traders. Despite election-time promises, post-colonial politicians have done little to alter these policies. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, police attacks on traders escalated as political elites sought to gain control over market areas deemed profitable for real estate development.

“Weaving together quantitative data gathered from surveying 6,000 male and female traders and poignant qualitative material obtained through in-depth interviews with fifty-six women traders, Robertson illuminates why - inspite of these unfavorable conditions - increasing numbers of women have turned to trading. Family crises, including deaths, loss of land, and unpaid school fees, have most often propelled women to move from occasional trade at rural markets to more full-time trade in Nairobi. Shifting marriage patterns have also made trade more attractive. The past few decades have witnessed a rise in premarital pregnancy and divorce as women chose to forego or abandon unions that offer little hope of support for themselves or their children. According to Robertson, both marriage and trade are strategies for obtaining economic security. And increasingly, trade appears as a more sensible strategy. As one woman trader explained, it is better for women to "sell whatever little" they have, rather than rely on husbands who spend their salaries at bars: "women must wake up and learn not to depend on people."(189)

“Robertson argues that, ultimately, women traders can improve their situation only through collective action that compels policy makers to institute loan schemes, stop police harassment, and provide low-cost selling spaces with security of tenure. While Robertson demonstrates that women and men traders have resisted and circumvented repressive colonial and post-colonial policies, she actually provides little evidence of sustained collective organization. As the above-quoted woman suggests and Robertson herself acknowledges, women traders are "resolutely individualistic" when it comes to business. Most use their own savings for start-up capital and avoid partnerships. For women traders, the models of collective organization embodied in contemporary Kenyan women's groups (often stratified by class) or in older women's councils (stratified by age and perhaps wealth) offer little appeal.

“In reconstructing the history of women traders, Robertson reveals the social character and economic contributions of a previously unexamined group and reinforces central themes in Kenyan historiography. Robertson demonstrates how African men's inter-war anxieties over women's labor and sexuality extended to women traders and how women traders' activities, in part, prompted late colonial and post-colonial efforts to introduce law and order through class-based policies. At numerous points, Robertson raises intriguing contrasts between women traders in Kenya and Ghana, the site of her previous research. Regretfully, Robertson refrains from developing these quick comments into a comparative discussion of gender in Africa. Yet, for its powerful documentation of women's survival strategies in the past and present, this study merits the attention of historians and anthropologists as well as World Bank officials and Kenyan policy makers.

University of Washington
COPYRIGHT 1999 Carnegie Mellon University Press
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

Anyone who has lived in Mombasa for more than a few weeks knows there is a direct connection between the shipping news that is often ignored by 80%of the population and increased commercial sex activity in this ancient coastal city. Kenyan hookers follow avidly the comings and goings of ships into Mombasa. Who knows when literally a shipload of randy sailors and or horny marines will step ashore looking for French kisses, Greek jobs, blow jobs, group sex and plain old missionary positions in return for francs, dollars, pounds or Kenyan shillings?

But as with other communities plagued with a foreign military presence, Mombasa has been bedeviled with notorious cases where the murders of Kenyan female sex workers by their American marine clients go unpunished. I was fifteen years old when Sundstrom, the farm boy from the American Mid West who joined the Marines was released on a “peace bond” of five hundred shillings after robbing and slaughtering a Kenyan woman he had picked up for commercial sex. A few years later Monica Njeri’s tragic fate was to inspire a young Kenyan named Kimani to write a novel.

Kenyans abroad have lately woken up to the fact prostitution by Kenyan nationals is alive and well in the Diaspora as well- whether you are talking about Houston, Boston, London, Toronto or Stockholm. There are Kenyan porn videos circulating in the United States and Kenyan strippers doing brisk business in southern Ontario. Apparently, one Kenyan woman has even taken the bold step of jumping into the brave new and lucrative world of cybersex with the launch of her Mighty Africa.Com. I have visited the site and to tout her patriotic Kenyan credentials, you see the up and coming Kenyan Internet Porn Queen/Entrepreneur posing
thiringinyi (Luo for buck naked) on a Kenyan flag!!??!!!

Given what I have said above, I am sure one or two readers will understand why I have not being among the most over-excited commentators on the Koinange Street expose.

In any case, as a Marxist-Leninist, I always marvel at the sexual hypocrisy of the Kenyan petit-bourgeoisie.

Here they are, boinking each other right, left and centre all day, all night and throughout the weekend while clicking their tongues tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk….

To which I want to respond with my own counter tsk tsk tsks.

Listen to what Marx and Engels had to say about the subject of prostitution way back in the late 1840s:

"For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce free love; it has existed almost from time immemorial.

"Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other's wives.

Bourgeois marriage is, in reality, a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalized system of free love. For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of free love springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private.“

(Marx and Engels, ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party’ 1848

Fascinating as this subject of
ukahaba is, strangely enough, this is not what I want to focus on for the rest of the essay.

I want to explore something else.

And this too, has been triggered by another appalling story that grabbed the headlines and ignited our collective rage recently. This has to do with the brutal assault perpetrated against an innocent, defenceless FOUR YEAR OLD Kenyan CHILD. The brute (or “animal” as the Standard dubbed him) confessed as was quickly sentenced to life imprisonment. Kenyan inmates, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, are unforgiving when it comes to sexual offenders. This is a crime which even the most hardened robber often views with undisguised disgust, not understanding why someone would commit such a heinous crime. When it is a child victim who is involved, as in the present case, the likelihood of that convict completing their prison term alive is very uncertain, to put it mildly.

But once again, I was disappointed that we as Kenyans did not go much further than our gut reaction.

What happened to that child, unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, WAS NOT an aberration.

I will detail why in a second.

Like I said, I too was deeply disturbed at what happened to that little child and I shared the sense of revulsion at that twisted individual who committed that crime.

However, one has to understand this crime in context. It is systemic.

Sexual exploitation is part and parcel of our political economy, our legacy of colonialism and neocolonialism. Studies in South East Asia have made a direct correlation between sexual exploitation and the social systems that prevail there.

So, without taking anything away from the horrific spectacle that we all recoiled from recently, I want to now invite you to wade together with me through a very weighty document from the United Nations.

People never know where I am going with my essays, ama?

Patience, my friends.

Before I take the next three steps forward I want you to click on this link and scroll down to the part where they talk of child prostitution in Kenya:

Grim stuff huh?

Well, I am afraid that the document we are about to examine is even more grim- absolutely stomach churning so again, if you are squeamish and can not deal with very harrowing descriptions, please say goodbye to this essay right about now.

Ms Ofelia Calcetas-Santos visited Kenya over five years ago. From the 25th of September to August 1st to be exact. She was visiting our country in her capacity as a Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Her specific mission: to look into the issue of the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Kenya. Her report was # 20 on the provisional agenda of the 54th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights and was released for distribution on January 8, 1998.

The Kenyan part is actually an addendum to her main report. You can access the entire document by going to:


Let us look at some key parts of the report. Once again, this is heavy stuff so reader discretion is advised.

First here is a profile of the perpetrators:

C. Profile of perpetrators

1.A wide range of individuals at all levels of society contribute to the existence of the phenomenon. Intermediaries, family members, service providers, customers, tourists, community leaders, government officials and the business sector may all be implicated in the growing problem, be it through indifference, ignorance of the consequences suffered by children or through the active perpetuation of the phenomenon.

•The customers exploiting children commercially for sexual purposes are both Kenyans and foreigners. Clients include local Kenyans from all social levels, migrant workers whose families have stayed behind in rural areas, expatriates, university students, tourists, pedophiles and adults who falsely believe that children are safer from HIV/AIDS infection.

•The Special Rapporteur was also informed that tourist agents, both local and foreign, have been known to direct and guide tourists to specific areas to find child prostitutes. Therefore, while it appears that the phenomenon of sex tourism and sex tour operators has not yet reached the alarming scales in place in many South-East Asian countries, Kenya is a growing tourist destination and as such, the laws and measures to protect children from this kind of sexual exploitation must be strengthened.

•In "Juvenile Injustice, Police Abuse and Detention of Street Children in Kenya", the international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch charges Kenyan law enforcement officials with physical abuse, monetary extortion and sexual abuse of street children. (4) Instances of street girls being sexually propositioned or even raped by police in order to avoid arrest or to be released from custody have been reported. When in custody, street children are held in crowded police station cells, often without toilets or bedding, with inadequate supplies of food and water, and are frequently beaten by police in the station. The Special Rapporteur was especially concerned to learn that children are held in the same cells as adults and are, therefore, doubly vulnerable to abuse. Although Kenyan law requires that a person arrested without a warrant be brought before a magistrate without delay, street children often remain locked-up for long periods, which may extend to weeks, without any review of the legality of their detention by the authorities. They are then released back onto the streets or are brought to court. Bearing in mind the already vulnerable situation of street children, the Special Rapporteur is very disturbed at these allegations implicating government officials in the abuse, including sexual exploitation, of the very children that they are mandated to protect. “

Can you believe that part which talks of “adults who falsely believe that children are safer from HIV/AIDS infection“?

This observation is underscored in an earlier part of the report:

“One particularly disturbing trend related to the increase in persons living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, is the mistaken belief by many that having sex with young children would reduce the possibilities of HIV-infection. This results in the so-called "spiral effect", which manifests itself in progressively younger children being used for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Another equally dangerous conception is that having sex with an infant cures a person affected by HIV/AIDS. In some of her discussions, the Special Rapporteur was informed that there had been cases reported in which infants under 1 year old had been raped or sodomized due to such false beliefs. These incidents only highlight the priority attention that should be accorded to HIV/AIDS education at all levels of society.”

Then we look at the characteristics of the sexual exploitation of children in Kenya:

B. Characteristics

1.Commercial sexual exploitation of children in Kenya, a developing country with rapid population growth and continuing economic and social changes, is a phenomenon shrouded in relative secrecy, conditioning the strategies to eradicate and prevent the problem. The lack of a sound legal basis in Kenyan national legislation further compounds the problem. This important issue is discussed at length in the next chapter.

2.Under-reporting is another major characteristic of commercial sexual exploitation of children in Kenya and seems largely due to non-existent or ineffective response mechanisms to provide support, protection and assistance to victims. An important aspect of prevention would be to educate the public to detect signs of potential or existing sexual exploitation of children, to its consequences, to its prevalence, legal implications and types of sexual abuse. Under-reporting causes the notable lack of any specific data so that an objective assessment of the phenomenon cannot be undertaken. This is a very serious concern of the Special Rapporteur since no effective and appropriate nationwide strategies to combat and prevent the problem can be developed without knowing its real extent.

1.Although during her visit the Special Rapporteur was not able to evaluate the extent of the problem, she was informed that there is no doubt that commercial sexual exploitation of children was escalating at great speed and that immediate intervention, as well as long-term preventative strategies must be undertaken.

•The age of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation in Kenya is estimated to range from 9 to 17 years, with the majority of children affected between 13 to 17 years. School girls, young girls who have migrated from rural communities, especially those who work as unskilled domestic helpers, school boys who need money for school fees, "second-generation" prostitutes, beach boys and school drop-outs are all categories of children who fall victim to commercial sexual exploitation. (3)

•It was interesting for the Special Rapporteur to note that some contend that the sectors of society most affected by the dangers of commercial sexual exploitation of children are non-Nomadic and economically and socially more advanced families. Their higher consumption needs and increased demand for goods, which often leads them to urban centres in search for more gainful employment, frequently result in the family not being able to sustain itself. Consequently, and as already mentioned above, family structures are broken down and difficulties within the household lead to the neglect of children. In particular, the Central and Western provinces, the North-East and Eastern areas of Kenya, as well as the Coastal Provinces, are said to be most affected by social transformation. Such phenomena are less observed within more traditional, Nomadic African groups where the extended family still provides a solid support network for children.

•The main "modes of operation" by which commercial sexual exploitation takes place in Kenya are through pimps, madams and middlemen, parents or other family members, in brothels and massage parlours, in the streets, in nightclubs, bars and in discotheques. Runaway or "throwaway" children or school drop-outs and other children living in the streets are frequently engaged in "sex for survival", that is to say they are forced to turn to prostitution for their survival and engage in individual prostitution, "operating" without pimps or madams. The Special Rapporteur was also informed of the existence of commercial sexual exploitation of children, through loosely organized networks, in rich, private houses known as "Mbwa kali", which refers to the "Beware of fierce dog" signs posted outside the gates. It is suspected that in many private houses illegal activities involving children are taking place but access by law enforcement officials on mere grounds of suspicion is not allowed and police are wary to enter. Therefore, any activities inside "Mbwa kali" houses, mainly owned by rich Kenyans, expatriates and foreigners, are very difficult to control.

•From testimonies of child victims of prostitution, the Special Rapporteur was informed that the price for sexual services for children varies vastly from K Sh 20.00 which a 9-year old street girl received for letting older men sodomize her, up to K Sh 500.00 for sex with a 17-year old girl working in a bar. Karen, 15, told of being raped by a man in the street who then offered her K Sh 100.00 for the second time. This is how she entered prostitution.

•In Nairobi, specific nightclubs are known to provide adult prostitutes for clients but the prostitution of minors in such establishment is more difficult to detect since it is largely carried out "behind the scenes" and through contacts only. At the same time, some street workers have identified certain clubs where children in prostitution are known to operate from. In the streets, Koinange Street and Kenyatta Avenue are places where children, predominantly girls, apparently as young as 7 to 9 years old, can be found offering sexual services. Many of the children working in the streets are accompanied by their mothers or older siblings who also engage in prostitution. Another characteristic appears to be that most brothels are managed by female pimps or madams and that the majority of recruiters are also women.

•In Mombasa and Malindi, and in other coastal tourist areas, the attention of the Special Rapporteur was drawn to children who offer sexual services along the beaches, mainly so-called "beach boys" and in small bed and breakfasts where maids or other domestic workers are offered for sexual services by owners and managers. Local authorities pointed out that since the Government is becoming increasingly aware of the extent of the phenomenon, beaches are now starting to be monitored and surveillance is being carried out around bars and massage parlours where prostitution takes place in popular tourist areas.

•During her mission, the Special Rapporteur noted that information on the use of children in the production of child pornography was scarce and difficult to obtain. It appeared, however, that such productions were concentrated in populated and/or tourist areas, such as in Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Watamu. It was contended that any child pornography material that is available comes into Kenya from abroad and that production within Kenya is unknown. The Government, through the Film Licensing Board, censors all types of films that come to the country, but the Special Rapporteur would like to caution that the private nature of distribution and viewing of materials makes such censorship difficult. The increased access to computer based information networks has led to an increase in child pornography, with appropriate legislative remedies increasingly difficult to implement. Relevant strategies to combat such problems must be considered even if the phenomenon is not rampant or not recognized as common in Kenya.

•It was also reported that children are being trafficked internally from rural to urban areas by intermediaries, or at times, by loosely organized crime networks, for the purpose of prostitution. Many trafficked children originate from impoverished and remote rural areas where they and their family may not grasp the true nature of the risk and consequences involved in accepting the help of a mediator, "family friend", "boyfriend" or "future husband" for finding allegedly "domestic" work in urban centres. Once the children find themselves in unfamiliar areas, without their families, they become dependent on the mediator and are easily controlled and manipulated. As in other countries, the victims themselves or their families are deceived by false promises of obtaining house or bar work and, therefore, "voluntarily" go with the intermediaries. Similarly there are cases of children being trafficked into Kenya.

Another characteristic of commercial sexual exploitation in Kenya is that apparently refugee children, originating mainly from the Sudan and Somalia and often marginalized in Kenyan society, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.”

Next, there was a case study conducted at the Kenyan coast:


1.The coastal area of Kenya, including urban centres such as Mombasa and Malindi, possesses a cultural, ethnic and geographic richness and diversity which also lends the phenomenon of commercial sexual exploitation of children particular characteristics, different from Nairobi. The Special Rapporteur also chose to visit the coastal area in order to study the impact of tourism on commercial sexual exploitation of children and to identify possible measures to prevent any further exploitation.

1.Children from all parts of the country converge in the coastal area, especially in Mombasa and Malindi, hoping to earn a living from the influx of foreigners. Here the children are rendered doubly vulnerable since, on one hand, they are subjected to sexual exploitation by some tourists but, on the other hand, they are subject to violence and harsh treatment by police officers who are ordered to "clean" the streets for the tourists. Yet it was emphasized that tourism is not the primary reason for children to enter into commercial sexual exploitation and other ventures to assure their survival but that once they are in the streets, having left home for the many reasons described earlier, the tourist industry becomes a major attraction. According to the Mombasa Coast and Tourist Association, only 1 per cent of tourism in the coastal area is oriented for sex.

•According to the Mombasa Coast and Tourist Association, out of 827,000 international tourists visiting Kenya per year, approximately 70 per cent travel to Mombasa and the majority of arrivals are families, honeymooners or pensioners, with only a small percentage of individuals traveling alone. In the face of these statistics, it could be deduced that the tourist industry in the coastal area of Kenya is not primarily sex-oriented. Nevertheless, in view of the large number of street children and curio vendors, the potential for increased commercial sexual exploitation of children must be recognized and preventative strategies put into place without delay.

•In fact, the Special Rapporteur was pleased to note a high degree of awareness of potential dangers in discussions with the Chairman of the Mombasa Coast and Tourist Association (MCTA). The MCTA has carried out awareness-raising campaigns concerning the rights and protection of children with hoteliers, tour operators and caterers and has asked them to report to the Association any detection of minors in their establishments. At the prompting of the Special Rapporteur, the Chairman, in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, was going to address a circular letter to all tourism managers in the region to remind them of their obligation to monitor that no minors under 18 be allowed in their establishments. The MCTA has also requested the Government to provide land for building a regulated "beach boys market" in order to control better the type of merchandise sold and activities undertaken by beach boys, the building of which would be funded by the MCTA. Generally, the MCTA also expressed its willingness to cooperate with the Children's Services Department and their officers in any future initiatives to eliminate commercial sexual exploitation of children.

•In most discussions, it was mentioned that homosexual prostitution and the use of boys in commercial sexual exploitation of children was not traditionally practiced in Kenya but that foreign influences through tourists have given rise to this phenomenon. In particular young boys who sell curios on the beaches in tourist areas, so-called "beach boys", are mostly targeted by pedophiles and male tourists looking to buy sexual services. To address this growing concern, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife established a Kenya Beach Management Programme. Under this programme, the beach boys are organized into a "Beach Operators Association", with about 6,000 members. It coordinates the selling of curios but at the same time seeks to prevent the curio vendors from being used as contact points by tourists for either drugs or sexual services by children. The Association also represents its members in negotiations with provincial authorities and the Mombasa Coast and Tourist Association.

•It was also mentioned that tourists who come to Kenya on package tours and stay in cheaper hotels have more opportunities to enter into closer contact with locals and, therefore, attract local commercial sex workers and nomadic street children who move from one tourist area to another searching for ways to survive.

•Malindi has certain characteristics not in common with the other coastal areas like Mombasa and Lamu. Malindi has a visibly large Italian community. Italian-owned hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs proliferate in Malindi. Thus, many Italian tour operators and tourists are attracted to the area. The expatriate community consequently has very close contacts to both local Kenyans, as well as to the tourists, and it has been reported that such contacts are also used for providing children for sexual services to tourists. Furthermore, in view of the higher number of young, single tourists that travel to Malindi, demand for sex services also appears greater.

•Another characteristic of commercial sexual exploitation of children in Malindi, were female domestic helpers who worked in "guest cottages" mostly owned by expatriates but managed by local caretakers. It was reported that the caretakers at times photographed the domestic workers and sent their photos to guests abroad so that they could "select their girl" before arrival. Another incentive provided for the domestic helpers to engage in other services than housework is the approximately monthly salary of K Sh 4,000 to 5,000/month that they are sometimes offered. In comparison, a local lower-level government official would earn approximately K Sh 3,000/month. The Special Rapporteur was also informed of "hostels" for girls, situated around Malindi, which provide an ideal setting for sexual exploitation of girls and which should be carefully monitored.

•Also in the coastal area, in Malindi and Mombasa it was reported that organizers of traditional dances for tourist entertainment used children and school drop-outs in their shows and that tourists often requested the services of performers after the dances for sexual purposes. The Children's Department in Nairobi was of the opinion, however, that such exploitation had been detected and a stop put to it.

1.The Special Rapporteur was also informed that a large number of the coastal population or "Mijikenda" are Muslim communities, like in Lamu, which are very closed and difficult to reach. Both children's officers and non-governmental organizations stated that whilst in these communities no commercial sexual exploitation of children has been observed, it appears that the rate of child abuse and exploitation within families is high. In particular, young boys are more exposed to the danger of sexual abuse by homosexual members of the community, especially since the girls within Muslim families are strictly protected.

•The International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) of the ILO has implemented a programme in Malindi which addressed mainly children who work in factories in the region. At the same time, a new programme has been proposed under which recreational centres with counseling facilities and information would be established for children victims of exploitation, sexual and otherwise. The programme aims to enable children in prostitution to get vocational training for alternative sources of income. Other options which could be offered to children in need of rehabilitation and their families would be empowerment training and a credit-lending facility for parents to encourage income-generating activities. The Special Rapporteur considers this an excellent project proposal and encourages its implementation without delay.”

Of course it is better for my readers to read the UN report from start to finish.

The bigger question for me is what do we, as Kenyans do with all of this? Recently we harnessed our collective outrage at that child molester who is now languishing, in probably in a Kamiti solitary cell in the segregated wing of the punishment block (E).

But how about the perpetrators out there?

How many of them are cabinet ministers and members of parliament?

How many of them are visiting World Bank and IMF officials?

How many of them are expatriates working for multinational firms?

How many of them are directors of foreign NGOs?

How many of them are police officers?

How many of them are doctors?

How many of them are lawyers?

How many of them are newspaper editors and television producers?

How many of them are bishops, pastors and priests?

How many of them are sex tourists from Italy, Canada, Germany, Japan, Austria, Switzerland and I do not know where else?

If any of these are among the perpetrators, who is going after them?

And I stayed in Kamiti long enough to see a wide range of sexual offenders swung in to know that my list above is not arbitrary. Indeed as I write these lines I am just from stealing a glance at the December 18th newspapers trumpeting the alliance between Ford-People and KANU and because I was in the middle of writing this very essay, I literally choked and almost vomited when I saw a picture of Julius Sunkuli, the KANU SG and former powerful cabinet minister. Wasn’t this the guy who was accused of grabbing his teenage underage relative and raping her until she conceived a child for him? And there he was, walking scot free up and down the streets of Nairobi posing for pictures while his victim suffers in humiliation with a child she had not planned on having.

Is Sunkuli the only child molester who is also a high profile Kenyan politician?

I doubt it very much.

Many of these male MPs have housemaids who are eleven to seventeen and I can safely guess that it is very likely that at least a fraction of the two hundred and something MPs have sexually abused their house help.

We know that on this issue, we are not just talking about crime and punishment. We are talking prevention and counseling; rehabilitation and a whole lot more.

But at least we can start by taking another look at the existing laws.

Are they adequate?

If so, how seriously are these laws being implemented?

If not, what can be done?

How about the socio-economic conditions that leave innocent children open to sexual exploitation?

Today I am not going to offer any solutions.

Right now I am just thinking as a father, an uncle, a cousin, a nephew, yes, as someone who has children in my life and what I would do if I ever had to deal with the unthinkable misfortune of confronting any of the things I have detailed in this paper up close and personal.

That thought alone is enough for me to pause at my keyboard and say that is it.

I cannot write anymore.

Onyango Oloo
Wednesday, December 17, 2003


What Can We Do About Prostitution and The Sexual Exploitation of Children in Kenya?

Wonders Onyango Oloo in Montreal

(Began: Thursday, December 18, 2003; Finished: Friday, December 19, 2003)

I: Three Snapshots

(a) Millie Jackson:

Those of who you who were teenagers or in their early twenties in the seventies will immediately recognize the husky voice of Millie Jackson, a diva who was way ahead of her time in terms of dealing openly with alternative lifestyles, especially the lives of mature, independent women. Millie Jackson often cast herself in the role of the “Other Woman” validating and embracing women who were traditionally seen as sluts, bitches and home-breakers. By becoming them, she humanized them, transforming them from stock figures and caricatures in a modern morality play to the woman upstairs, or your auntie Awino, Njoki or Nanjala.

I remember how I used to wait up for “Late Date”, one of the last programs on the General(English) service of the Voice of Kenya radio(memories of Mick Ndichu, Elizabeth Omollo and others flow back) and no night was complete without a staple of Isaac Hayes, Gladys Knight, Teddy Pendergrass and the ever dependable Barry White.

Years later I seriously considered doing an in depth study complete with live interviews to verify whether it was Barry White or Luther Vandross who provided the sound track of choice to all those teen- pregnancies during the December secondary school holidays. But for some reason, I never got round to embarking on this monumental task.

Anyways, give a listen to Millie Jackson explaining why, if loving a particular man was wrong, she did not want to be right.

In the meantime, suspend judgment and all your questions about what on earth is Millie Jackson doing in the middle of one of Oloo’s essays. That is one of the reasons why they are called DIGITAL essays. How many essays do you get to listen to and read at the same time?

Here is
Millie Jackson

(b) Dichol Nyarthurwa:

Of course this is not her real name. When I was about ten years old, one of the teenagers in my home village of Luanda Doho in Kisa West Location, who used to be top of her class, ran away from home. Actually she had gone to see George Ramogi, the legendary Benga band leader who was performing at Mutumbu near Malanga, Gem. She never came back. At that time she was maybe sixteen years old.

Soon, we heard rumours that she was in Kisumu. And then she disappeared from that lake city as well.

Suddenly on November 12th, 1972- it was a Saturday evening and about to rain I remember… As I was alighting from a country bus from Ugenya ( I cannot recall whether it was Lolwe or Dani Bus) where I had gone with my mother to attend her grandmother’s funeral, I saw this caravan, this double-decker looking vehicle careening past the posho mill getting on to the red dirt road leading to Luanda Doho Kagina. And there was this woman calling my name and hailing my mom. Who was she? Why, it was the long lost Dichol Nyathurwa. And she had two white faces beside her. Long story short, it turned out that she had run into this European duo who was attempting to drive their caravan from Cape Town to Cairo. When they stopped in Mombasa, they ran into Dichol and I guess that was the end of that Trans Africa trek. Dichol was to later marry one of those guys and move to Europe to start a family. Dichol did not offer any information about how she ended up in Mombasa from that early seventies George Ramogi concert in Mutumbu, nor did she explain how she had been making a living at the Coast before she ran into those wazungu. We heard rumours that….anyways, we were so happy to see her with her parents back in the village and whenever we went over to their home she treated us kids with so much love and generosity and that was all that mattered you see.

(c) Kasupuu-

Again, you will have to kill me first before I divulge her real name. And I have changed a couple of details just in case any of my readers grew up in Mombasa around the same time I did. Kasupuu went to one of the two main “government” secondary schools in Mombasa- now; I am not going to tell you whether she wore the red skirt of Coast Girls or the navy blue skirt of Star of the Sea. All you need to know is that she was a prefect, her father was a prominent business man and she lived either in Mbaraki, Nyali, Tudor Four, Kizingo, Bamburi or one of those posh areas where middle and upper middle class wadozi lived. She was one of the prettiest girls in town and almost every boy her age (she was in form three when I was doing my “A” levels) had a serious crush on her. Everybody expected Kasupuu to pass Form Four with flying colours and go on to university. Well, at the end of Form Three she dropped out and became a permanent fixture at Mombasa Beach Hotel, and not just on Saturdays when DJ Anwar was in the house. For whatever reason she became a full time hooker catering to the tourists. Over the years I heard that she had acquired a serious drug habit. And when I was in Kenya recently I was told that she was not seen much these days- that she was sick and people were not sure if it was “the big one.”

II: A Stop Over in Montreal

The three vignettes above were geared to make a very simple point. When we talk of women that we consider concubines, street walkers and run of the mill sluts, let us remember that we are talking of concrete individuals, real human beings, who may happen to be our sisters, mothers, aunties, neighbours, former school mates- if they are not ourselves.

I work at McGill University and I interact frequently with students who attend that institution as well as Concordia which are both in Montreal. Together with University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) and the Universite de Montreal, they help to make this city very much a university town. Many of the female students in these campuses will not bat an eyelid when they casually mention that they have worked in the sex industry to pay their way through college- as strippers, call girls, escorts at stag parties, you name it. My point again is that when we talk of prostitutes we should learn to conjure up the image of the so called “normal” girl next door rather than some religious caricature that is a cross between Jezebel and Delilah.

Having said that though, is prostitution in Kenya a good thing or a scourge that should be stamped out?

Well if you listen to the preachers- and it does not matter whether they are Christian, Hindu or Muslim- whether they declaim from the masjid, the cathedral, temple, pagoda, synagogue, the chapel, the street or the open air park: their message of condemnation of the sins of the flesh is uniformly strident and sanctimonious.

If you listen to the politicians, INCLUDING some of the same ones who were busted on Koinange Street recently, you will hear them extol the virtue of strengthening family values and high moral standards for Kenyan society.

Of course, if you talk to male or female sex workers patrolling the streets, pubs and hotels for their “tricks” or johns, you hear something very different- it is a tale of survival and seeking alternative economic security in a climate of high unemployment and uncertainty.

III: A Segue into the Stratosphere of Feminist Theory

Very few of my female readers will be surprised to read once again the fact that prostitution as a social phenomenon and as a topic is something that feminists have grappled with for decades.

Let me offer a sample of these discussions for people who are not up to speed. Others can skip this part and rejoin us later in the essay.

For instance there is this article from the Boston Phoenix that appeared in 1997:
Click Here

Here is a partial quote from the piece by Yvonne Abraham and Sarah McNaught:

“Few things have divided feminists as much as the sex industry. Theorists who agree on a vast swath of issues -- economic equality, affirmative action, even sexual liberation -- often find themselves bitterly opposed over pornography and prostitution.

“Most 19th-century feminists opposed prostitution and considered prostitutes to be victims of male exploitation. But just as the suffragette and temperance movements were bound together at the turn of the century, so too were feminist and contemporary moral objections to prostitution. Women, the argument went, were repositories of moral virtue, and prostitution tainted their purity: the sale of sex was, like alcohol, both cause and symptom of the decadence into which society had sunk.

“By the 1960s and '70s, when Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer asserted that sexual liberation was integral to women's liberation, feminists were reluctant to oppose prostitution on moral grounds. Traditional morality, Greer argued, had helped to repress women sexually, had made their needs secondary to men's. That sexual subordination compounded women's economic and political subordination.

“Today, some feminists see hooking as a form of sexual slavery; others, as a route to sexual self-determination. And in between are those who see prostitution as a form of work that, like it or not, is here to stay.

“Radical feminists such as lawyer Catharine MacKinnon and antipornography theorist Andrea Dworkin oppose sex work in any form. They argue that it exploits women and reinforces their status as sexual objects, undoing many of the gains women have made over the past century.

“Others detect in this attitude a strain of neo-Victorianism, a condescending belief that prostitutes don't know what they're doing and need somebody with more education to protect them. Some women, these dissenters point out, actually choose the profession.

“Feminists who question the antiprostitution radicals also point out that Dworkin and MacKinnon sometimes sound eerily like their nemeses on the religious right. Phyllis Schlafly, a rabid family-values crusader, has even cited Dworkin in her antipornography promotional materials. This kind of thing has not improved the radicals' image among feminists.

“At the other extreme from Dworkin and MacKinnon are sex-radical feminists like Susie Bright and Pat Califia. They argue that sex work can be a good thing: a bold form of liberation for women, a way for some to take control of their lives. The problem there, though, is that the life of a prostitute is often more Leaving Las Vegas than Pretty Woman (see "Pop Tarts").

“Many feminists fall somewhere in between the rad-fem and sex-radical poles. Wendy Chapkis, professor of sociology and women's studies at the University of Southern Maine and the author of the Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor (Routledge, 1997), is one of them. For nine years, Chapkis studied prostitution in California and the Netherlands, as well as in Britain and Finland, and conducted interviews with 50 sex workers. Chapkis says she sees the profession as it is: many of her interviews confirmed much of the ugliness that radical feminists abhor, as well as the empowerment that sex radicals perceive…”

Where do Kenyan women stand on this issue?

Well I have not done any kind of exhaustive or extensive survey but if I confine myself to the comments I recently gleaned from the ongoing discussion on prostitution and the sexual exploitation of children in Kenya in forums such as Mashada, RC Bowen, Kikuyu.Com and Kenya Ni Yetu it would appear that there is a whole range of attitudes out there from very religious stances through appeals for more public sensitization to the libertarian views advocating for the legalization of prostitution.

In fact, legalization of prostitution seems to be as a popular view among many of the Kenyan men contributing to these discussions as well.

Initially, I too, leaned heavily in that direction, especially since I cannot stand the cant (no, it is not a typo and yes, some of us still use archaic words like “cant”) of wannabe religious crusaders.

Now I am not so sure if legalization of prostitution is really the route to go as far as Kenya is concerned. In doing my research for this essay, I stumbled on to this web site which gave me 10 GOOD REASONS WHY PROSTITUTION SHOULD NOT BE LEGALIZED. And these are not Victorians of the 21st Century at all. Quite the contrary.

Do you wanna hear the reasons?

I bet you do.

Here they are:

“1. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry.
“2. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking.
“3. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not control the sex industry. It expands it.
“4. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution.
“5. Legalization of prostitution and decriminalization of the sex industry increases child prostitution.
“6. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect the women in
“7. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases the demand for prostitution. It boosts the motivation of men to buy women for sex in a much wider and more permissible range of socially acceptable settings.
“8. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not promote women’s health.
“9. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not enhance women’s choice.
“10. Women in systems of prostitution do not want the sex industry legalized or decriminalized.”

This is an excerpt from a document issued on March 25, 2003 entitled, “10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution” written by Janice Raymond who is with Coalition Against Trafficking in Women(CATW). I really urge you to read the document in its entirety because the discussion on the above ten points is quite compelling. Here is the


And this is what I mean by compelling arguments:

“3.Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not control the sex industry. It expands it.

”Contrary to claims that legalization and decriminalization would regulate the expansion of the sex industry and bring it under control, the sex industry now accounts for 5 percent of the Netherlands economy (Daley, 2001: 4). Over the last decade, as pimping became legalized and then brothels decriminalized in the Netherlands in 2000, the sex industry expanded 25 percent (Daley, 2001: 4). At any hour of the day, women of all ages and races, dressed in hardly anything, are put on display in the notorious windows of Dutch brothels and sex clubs and offered for sale -- for male consumption. Most of them are women from other countries (Daley, 2001: 4) who have in all likelihood been trafficked into the Netherlands.

”There are now officially recognized associations of sex businesses and prostitution “customers” in the Netherlands that consult and collaborate with the government to further their interests and promote prostitution. These include the “Association of Operators of Relaxation Businesses,” the “Cooperating Consultation of Operators of Window Prostitution,” and the “Man/Woman and Prostitution Foundation,” a group of men who regularly use women in prostitution, and whose specific aims include “to make prostitution and the use of services of prostitutes more accepted and openly discussible,” and “to protect the interests of clients” (NRM Bureau, 2002:115-16).

”Faced with a dearth of women who want to “work” in the legal sex sector, the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking states that in the future, a proposed “solution” may be to “offer [to the market] prostitutes from non EU/EEA countries, who voluntarily choose to work in prostitution…” They could be given “legal and controlled access to the Dutch market” (NRM Bureau, 2002: 140). As prostitution has been transformed into “sex work,” and pimps into entrepreneurs, so too this potential “solution” transforms trafficking into “voluntary migration for sex work.” The Netherlands is looking to the future, targeting poor women of color for the international sex trade to remedy the inadequacies of the free market of “sexual services.” In the process, it reinforces the normalization of prostitution as an “option for the poor.”

”Legalization of prostitution in the State of Victoria, Australia, has led to massive expansion of the sex industry. Whereas there were 40 legal brothels in Victoria in 1989, in 1999 there were 94, along with 84 escort services. Other forms of sexual exploitation, such as tabletop dancing, bondage and discipline centers, peep shows, phone sex, and pornography have all developed in much more profitable ways than before (Sullivan and Jeffreys: 2001).

”Prostitution has become an accepted sideline of the tourism and casino boom in Victoria with government-sponsored casinos authorizing the redeeming of casino chips and wheel of fortune bonuses at local brothels (Sullivan and Jeffreys: 2001). The commodification of women has vastly intensified and is much more visible.

”Brothels in Switzerland have doubled several years after partial legalization of prostitution. Most of these brothels go untaxed, and many are illegal. In 1999, the Zurich newspaper, Blick, claimed that Switzerland had the highest brothel density of any country in Europe, with residents feeling overrun with prostitution venues, as well as experiencing constant encroachment into areas not zoned for prostitution activities (South China Morning Post: 1999).

”4. Legalization/decriminalzaton of prostitution increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution.
”Legalization was supposed to get prostituted women off the street. Many women don’t want to register and undergo health checks, as required by law in certain countries legalizing prostitution, so legalization often drives them into street prostitution. And many women choose street prostitution because they want to avoid being controlled and exploited by the new sex “businessmen.”

”In the Netherlands, women in prostitution point out that legalization or decriminalization of the sex industry cannot erase the stigma of prostitution but, instead, makes women more vulnerable to abuse because they must register and lose anonymity. Thus, the majority of women in prostitution still choose to operate illegally and underground. Members of Parliament who originally supported the legalization of brothels on the grounds that this would liberate women are now seeing that legalization actually reinforces the oppression of women (Daley, 2001: A1).

”The argument that legalization was supposed to take the criminal elements out of sex businesses by strict regulation of the industry has failed. The real growth in prostitution in Australia since legalization took effect has been in the illegal sector. Since the onset of legalization in Victoria, brothels have tripled in number and expanded in size – the vast majority having no licenses but advertising and operating with impunity (Sullivan and Jeffreys: 2001). In New South Wales, brothels were decriminalized in 1995. In 1999, the numbers of brothels in Sydney had increased exponentially to 400-500. The vast majority have no license to operate. To end endemic police corruption, control of illegal prostitution was taken out of the hands of the police and placed in the hands of local councils and planning regulators. The council has neither the money nor the personnel to put investigators into brothels to flush out and prosecute illegal operators.

”5. Legalization of prostitution and decriminalization of the sex industry increases child prostitution.

”Another argument for legalizing prostitution in the Netherlands was that it would help end child prostitution. In reality, however, child prostitution in the Netherlands has increased dramatically during the 1990s. The Amsterdam-based ChildRight organization estimates that the number has gone from 4,000 children in 1996 to 15,000 in 2001. The group estimates that at least 5,000 of the children in prostitution are from other countries, with a large segment being Nigerian girls (Tiggeloven: 2001).”(Janice Raymond, “10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, March, 2003).

Even though Janice Raymond makes a strong case against the legalization of prostitution, she at THE SAME TIME strongly advocates for the DECRIMINALIZATION of women sex workers.

Is there a distinction?

I think there is.

Let us listen to Janice once more:

“CATW favors decriminalization of the women in prostitution. No woman should be punished for her own exploitation. But States should never decriminalize pimps, buyers, procurers, brothels or other sex establishments.”

??? in other words a series of bewildering question marks

Is the response I see when I look around.

I will leave this decriminalization proposal sitting in the parking lot for a second while I pick up another thread. We will come back to it.

I want to go back to the issue of the commercial sexual exploitation of children for a moment. What can Kenyans do about this issue?

IV: Back to Watoto Wetu wa Kenya

At the end of my recent essay on the same topic, it appeared as if I was in despair, helpless. No, that is not the case. It is just this subject is too heavy and it is definitely NOT an academic one.

Fortunately, there are people around the world who have been actively working to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Perhaps the best known organization is ECPAT International.

It actually has a chapter in Kenya

Here are some of the things ECPAT suggests can do to end the sexual exploitation of children:

“Educators can introduce an awareness raising and prevention component into schools' curriculum.

“Police officers can establish special units with child friendly facilities in their precinct. Lawyers and judges can help develop child friendly legal procedures. Policy makers and legislators can write policies and laws that protect the best interest of the child.

“Journalists and publishers can refuse to write or publish sensational articles or use photos that further exploit a child or reveal the identity of a child. At the same time they can use the means at their disposal to raise awareness among the general population.

“Business, community or religious leaders can support children's clubs or street shelters, as well as provide skills training opportunities. They can promote the rights of children and adopt gender sensitive policies.

“Travel agents and tour operators can post signs in their office pledging support for anti child sex tourism campaigns and/or legislation; and they can help establish a national or regional Code of Conduct. Travelers can refuse to support any aspect of the tourist industry that is involved in the sexual exploitation of children.

“Actors in the Internet Industry, such as Service providers, can adopt codes of conduct, refuse to host child pornography, collaborate with hotlines and law enforcement agencies.

“Young people can actively participate as youth advocates and ensure that the voice of the youth is heard. They can become involved in youth clubs or networks; encourage their school to raise awareness about sexual exploitation within the community; challenge their local, regional or national government to undertake prevention and protection measures. Young people can be trained as peer counselors.

“All citizens can raise public awareness by talking to colleagues, community groups, students, religious groups and politicians about the sexual exploitation of children. They can report any activities relating to commercial sexual exploitation of children to the police or a hotline.

All citizens can encourage their governments to adopt, and enforce, adequate laws to protect children from sexual exploitation.

“Finally, you can support the work of ECPAT International or your local ECPAT group, or other children's rights organisations in the fight against the commercial sexual exploitation of children.“

You think the above is too vague and generic? Well, here are some concrete
“Good Practices” that ECPAT would like you to know about:

V: Some Tentative Conclusions:

1.Quite clearly the questions of prostitution and the sexual exploitation of children in Kenya are exceedingly complex and multi-layered.
2.These issued defy knee jerk reactions led by police and priests.
3.It is first and foremost a political, social, and economic problem that needs deeply strategic, systemic and long terms policy interventions at all those socio-economic and political levels;
4.You can not solve any of the issues thrown up by sex work without involving sex workers- male, female and shemale;

Arising from the above a single recommendation:

VI: Towards a National Conference on Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation of Children in Kenya:

I propose that this gathering be held in Nairobi in July or August 2004 to facilitate the participation of Kenyans Abroad. I propose that all key stakeholders from the government, civil society, Kenyans abroad and yes, groan, the donors, but most importantly, the sex workers should come to this meeting to map out some of the concrete strategies that I have hinted at above.

Is this a copout by Onyango Oloo, a refusal by me to provide a “blueprint”?

Actually, in a manner of speaking yes. Because I neither have a so called “blueprint” nor a monopoly of ideas on this topic.

Over to you folks.

Onyango Oloo
Montreal, Friday, December 19, 2003


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