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Kenya: The evil of child sex trade

Publish Date: 30 Oct 2004

Source: The Nation (Nairobi), NEWS 
By Patrick Mayoyo, Nairobi

The Evil of Child Sex Trade

A tourism industry based on the evils of child sex is slowly blossoming in Kenya.

Up to 30,000 girls - some of them as young as 14 - are being lured into commercial sex in all the major towns.

Investigations have revealed an intricate web of depravity, shrouded in secrecy and underworld dealings.

They also highlight a sinister racket of sending Kenyan women, including minors, to European cities in the guise of visitors - only for them to end up as sex pets or prostitutes after their hosts snatch their passports then hold them virtual prisoners abroad. Prime areas for child sex abuse at home include the coastal towns of Mombasa and Malindi, plus Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Nanyuki.

Havens for sex tourism include closely-guarded and secluded villas, saloons, massage parlours, discos, hotels and lodgings.

The sinister network of abuse has been uncovered by pressure groups for children's rights and investigations by the Daily Nation.

Tourism officials admit Kenya's role as a child sex destination has been downplayed for fear that it would undermine the industry. Sex tourism is said to be masterminded by people in the travel industry who help the processing of travel documents, secure bank guarantees for local girls and link the parties involved.

Some immigration officers have also been implicated.

In Mombasa, police arrested two massage parlour operators and charged them with engaging in immoral activities, after they were accused by three children of luring them from Nakuru with promises of high paying jobs only for them top end up being forced into prostitution.

Those who have raised their concerns about sex tourism include Mrs Elisabeth Akinyi, the manager of Solidarity for Women in Distress in Mombasa, Mrs Haida Bruno of Malindi, the vice-chairperson of the Child Welfare Society of Kenya, and Mr Samuel Munyi, the Kenya Tourism Concern director,

Mr Munyi, whose pressure group has been at the forefront in fighting against sexual exploitation of children said the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates 30,000 girls are involved in child sex tourism in Kenya.

He said the main age bracket was 15-to-18 and that his organisation, together with Respect (an Austrian charity) was working on a code of conduct for the local tourism industry to help address the problem.

Mrs Akinyi, of Solidarity, said a number of Kenyan women had ended up working as prostitutes in Europe after being lured by men from these countries as their spouses.

At least 10 women had been sent back to Kenya after being caught working as prostitutes in German brothels.

The most recent case followed the intervention of their sister office in Germany.

Mrs Bruno, of the Child Welfare Society, said sex tourism was slowly emerging at the Coast because key people in tourism were refusing to oppose the vice because of the difficulties facing tourism generally.

A recent survey indicated that underage girls were lured into hotels and luxurious private villas where they were sexually exploited on the promise of riches and trips abroad, she said.

Liquor licensing laws should be reviewed, she said, to ensure only adults were allowed into nightclubs and other entertainment spots.

The Malindi district children's officer, Mr Njeru Titima, confirmed that cases of child sex had been reported to him.

"I have received cases of children going to nightclubs from both parents and the police, and some of those involved have ended up in approved schools," he said.

And the chairman of Mombasa and Malindi Tourism Association, Mr Asgar Dossaji, said he could neither confirm nor deny that children were being exploited for sex at the Coast.

"We see young girls on the streets even at odd hours but I cannot say if they are involved in sexual activities because you know these things are not done in the open," Mr Dossaji said.

A report prepared by the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife entitled The Current Status of Sexual Exploitation of Children in Tourism in Kenya sheds lights on this phenomenon that continues to be downplayed by the Government.

It accepts that the problem is now prevalent although it adds that the actual level of exploitation cannot be quantified owing to a marked lack of data.

However, it reveals that paedophiles are now trying to escape from the child sex tourism centres in Asia because of tough new laws there and instead heading for Africa where the laws are lax.

The study comes hard on the heels of another report released by the US Government that placed Kenya on an international watch list as a transit point for women and children smuggled from other African countries as sex slaves.

The US report said Kenya was "country of origin, destination, and transit point" of people smuggled across borders for sexual exploitation and forced labour.

The annual report on human trafficking worldwide claims that among the victims are Kenyan children from rural areas who are trafficked into urban centres and coastal resorts for involuntary work, including prostitution.

Sex tourism is becoming increasingly common at the Coast, the US claimed.

"Women and children are trafficked from Burundi and Rwanda to coastal areas in Kenya for sexual exploitation in the growing sex tourism industry," the report adds.

It notes that, "the Government recently began a registration programme for coastal guesthouses, in part to deter sex tourism".

The State Department report puts Kenya on a "watch list" of countries that could face US sanctions if they do not take more effective action to prevent human trafficking.

"Some trafficking offences could be prosecuted under laws addressing child labour, forced detention for prostitution and the commercial exploitation of children, but no trafficking-related offences have been prosecuted," the report states in its assessment of Kenya.

It adds that Kenyan police continue to deny that trafficking is a problem.

But interviews with those involved in trying to protect children and boost tourism in areas where child sex tourism is said to be thriving paint a different picture.

In Malindi, said to be one of the sex tourism hot spots, the vice is commonplace, although conducted under a shroud of secrecy.

Sex tourism is said to have taken a more sophisticated dimension as a result of the mushrooming of private villas where apart from child sex, other sex tourism related activities said to be on the rise including organised orgies, call girl services, and the filming of blue movies and child pornography.

In Malindi there are more than 500 foreign-owned luxurious private homes in isolated areas offering great security and it is suspected most child sex orgies take place in these houses.

One tour operator in the town said the growth of the villas has led to some people in tourism using them to lure paedophiles for sexual orgies.

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