Kenya is a country located in eastern Africa. Naturally, the country is blessed with attraction areas such as wildlife reserves, beaches, mountains, amongst other beauty. Some of the main tourist attractions in the country include photo safaris, national parks, game reserves, ancient mosques at Mombasa; the renowned scenery of the Great Rift Valley; the coffee plantations at Thika, Mt. Kenya, and its beaches along the Indian Ocean.
Due to these attraction areas, Kenya is one of the countries in Africa which attracts an influx of tourists. The income it generates for the country, as a result of the presence of visitors creates the second largest source of foreign exchange revenue in the nation, after agriculture.
But as the tourism industry is booming in the country – with the government shifting special attention on the sector to improve its attractions to gain more visitors – there is also another social problem that the government must urgently address.
In 2006, a report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund said one Kenyan child in three, is involved in underage prostitution. And one major factor that has made child prostitution in the country popular, is the thriving tourism sector. It has been reported that some tourists who visit the country have special interest in sleeping with underage girls. According to a documentary filmed by the RT English News, girls as young as eight and nine years old, have been introduced into prostitution in Kenya.
In May 2014, a special report by the BBC in the coastal town of Malindi, which is about 120 kilometres northeast of Mombasa, revealed that local underage girls in the town are being recruited into prostitution and pornography. Rumored Italian tourists who visit the town, take advantage of the poverty situation in the area to coerce vulnerable girls into acting pornography with their pet dogs, while they record the act.
The journalist of that BBC report said the pornography is being done in small abandoned caves close to the beach. Seaweeds were used as mattress to avoid being discovered in places like hotels, or guest houses. The BBC Focus on Africa program later quoted an unnamed girl as saying “My father is dead and my mother has a lot of children. I go to the beach with my friends and the customers will come and choose the one they like. The customers are between the ages of 50 to 80 and lots of them come from Italy.”
An unnamed local boy who also plays a key role in the underage sex trade in the Malindi town, told the Focus on Africa program “Some tourists tell me that they like the small girls so I go to the town and talk to the girls and bring them here. Some of the girls are students while others are not and they are between the ages of 12 and 17. The tourists say their bloods are old and they need these young girls with fresh blood to warm them. If it is a tourist and a girl for a short time, the price is 50 Euro but if it is a girl and an animal, the price is 500 Dollars.”
In Kenya, it is a crime to engage in the commercial sex trade, but poverty and high levels of unemployment have seen women and girls engaging in the act in order to survive. More than 50% of the population in Kenya lives below the poverty line. Already, Kenya is among the top 5 world destinations where child abuse is common.
By law, underage children are not allowed to work in Kenya. However, many underage children are forced to drop out of school because their parents cannot afford to buy textbooks and school uniforms for them.
Underage girls who have no one to care for them, often end up in children’s homes where they are easily targeted and abused. Kenya is flooded with many non-profit organizations claiming to be working to save some of these vulnerable girls. However, observers say these organizations are not doing enough to save the children, but are rather using them to make money instead.
Therefore, the girls have no alternative than to continue in the prostitution business in order to survive. Some are exposed to diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other dangerous Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Others too, become pregnant unexpectedly, continuing the vicious circle of children born into extreme poverty, with the children growing up to follow in the footsteps of their mothers.
The documentary below was filmed by the RT English News. It explores why Kenyan girls go into prostitution. The film also features child protection representatives in the country explaining what they are doing to solve the problems that threaten the future of the many young girls in Kenya today.
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