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Mombasa pimps fueling child sex workers- sexual Violence against women by sexual pests????

When I read this article in IRIN news…..tears dropped from my eyes….! It was not because of anything else…but the sexual exploitation of the under 18 girls at the coast of Mombasa-Kenya.
In April, 2011, PLUS News reported of the darkest side of the coastal paradise. The report said that as police do night raids in Mombasa, majority of those sex workers arrested are girls under the age of 18years.
Grace Odembo, a person involved in issues of distressed women , and a field coordinator with Solidarity with Women in Distress (SOLWODI), said that many of the girls on the streets (Mombassa) have limited formal education and therefore little chance of gainful legal employment. She said "beach boys" - young men who hang around the beaches - acted as pimps for tourists seeking young girls and were paid handsome commissions, fuelling the cycle of child sex work. Ms odembo added ..."This large number of small girls you see loitering along the beaches looking for wazungu [white men] and even those engaging in legitimate businesses such as selling curios... they fall prey to beach boys who [tell] them they'll be introduced to perfect rich suitors, only to have them end up in the arms of sex pests instead," Odembo said. The 2006 by the government and the UN Children's Fund, reported that as many as 30 percent of teenage girls in the coastal towns of Diani, Kilifi, Malindi and Mombasa were involved in casual sex work. More than 10 percent of girls began transactional sex before the age of 12. The study also found that 35.5 percent of all sex acts involving children and tourists took place without condoms.
Factors that make girl children vulnerable to the exploitation
1. Toothless ness of the Kenya “Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism" to create awareness and prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children. However, the code seems to have done little to deter tourists seeking sex with minors.
2. Poverty of young girls makes them turn to sex work
3. Limited Education –girls drop out of schools-don’t go, or do both to put food on the table for families
4. poverty of beach boys-market tourists to young needy girls and expect hefty pay in return
5. Poor parents encourage their daughters to sell sex to supplement their family earnings.
6. guardians/parents of child sex workers sides with the accused whenever sexual abuse charges are brought against then, hence making it complex to address the issue
7. Wealthy wazungus(white men) pay the families of the young girls a lot of money to evade jail.

Case studies;
o Shelah(not the ral name) spends her days looking for customers at the city's Kenyatta Public Beach. Just 15, she already has one child and is the sole breadwinner for her household.

"My widowed mother lost both her hands while working at a steel processing factory in Mombasa, forcing me to do what I am doing," she told IRIN/PlusNews(April, 2011).

Sheilah says she has been selling sex for six months and has already slept with several men, mainly tourists. Most of her clients prefer sex without a condom. When asked if she was aware of the risks of HIV, she shrugged and admitted she had never been for an HIV test.
o Fridah finished school well at age 16 and was waiting to go to a national university. It happened that after form four, she visited her aunt in Mombasa. Immediately she reached there, her aunt told her she was old enough to take care of her personal effects. She narrated that she went to ask her friends on the jobs they do and they introduced her to evening beach visits. Soon, she had an old white man who was interested in her. She thought of saying no, but then asked herself where she could get the things she needed to use. After one year stay in Mombasa, Fridah’s foreign suitor fell sick and was flown home leaving Fridah in a big rented house with pregnancy. She also started feeling sick and used the money she had acquired for treatment. She was later diagnosed with HIV that caused AIDS and died three months thereafter leaving behind a child who was also infected with HIV.

Sheila’s and Fridah’s cases are just pointers to what happens to girls facing poverty, sexual exploitation, harsh environments and poor parenting. It is time to speak against the injustices that are done against our daughters, and advocate for protection of the rights of the girls, and empower families to raise their economic base. In other cases it was found out that the sex workers were raped, killed, infected and their bodies decomposed in hotels. Based on the above and many other stories of women who have suffered the same, below are thoughts on some measures world leadership need to take to stop violence against women and girls;

Possible ways to be adopted by world leaders to end sexual violence:

The respective governments need to do more to address the trade that many young girls see as a fast way out of poverty and into a more glamorous life. I am glad that the government is doing something- but a lot more needs to be done to address the issues affecting the under 18 girls exploited by men who are sexual pests.

They can do this as follows;
o Stop the bad image costal towns have - free sex destinations-strengthen security at the beaches and protection of girls from foreign sexual exploitation
o Educate families on the risks of emotional, physical and sexual violence girls go through
o Ensure girls are kept in schools, they are respected and protected from exploitation
o Create community awareness on alternative sources of income/economic empowerment of girls and families
o Sensitize communities on risks of unprotected sex-in the light of STIs(including HIV)
o Strengthen beach patrol, and ensure the beach security officers are paid well so that they can not be compromised by huge money from rich tourists who come for holidays to coastal towns
o Integrate gender in hotel management, and beach management so that children’s rights are protected according to the law.
o Ministries of tourism, education, gender and sports, and social services to join hands to protect girl children from exploitation
o The government needs to spread the income out to benefit the locals so that there is less temptation to go into sex work. Reduce local community poverty levels
o The government needs to come up with enough rescue centres within the region, and link them on transit to schools
o tackling poverty is key to ending child sex tourism among the girls and coastal communities
o Serious legal consequences to pedophiles who visit foreign countries
o Sexual education, children rights awareness, economic empowerment to beach boys

Let us all rally behind the girls and say no to sexual violence against them. Let us stand in solidarity with them.i am convinced that the beach experience should be one that enables those who visits enjoy the serine environment and the the wonder of God's createdness. the beach walk, swimming in the warm waters, boat rides, underwater creatures and hotel catering services should all make us human. let us to those who make beaches hell for our youngsters.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Cali gal Michelle's picture

Thank you for your voice!

I appreciate your journal entry very much, even though it is always very difficult for me to read about sex trafficking. It rips my heart out because I know it is real and it is prevalent, but people do not want to see.

What I appreciate most is the action plan you have listed. Many people write about problems and issues, but no solutions. Not that there is an expectation of that, and many times it is difficult to think of action steps. Nevertheless, you have given steps to take to stop this horrific injustice.

Please keep us posted on what steps you yourself are taking, and if there are things we can do from here. Can you contact local governments to start programs or take actions? Is there a way to provide reinforcement for girls to stay in school that is stronger than the pay they receive from sex work? Is there a way to educate parents and help them supplement income in other ways? Sorry for so many questions.... I want to be able to help you take these actions if possible.

Thank you for your voice; it is heard!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


Sharontina's picture

NGOs can be of help

Dear Sis,

I would suggest that one can seek the help and coordination of non profit organizations that focus on this or one can be created to concentrate more on bringing this to an end. The activities can be a group effort with awareness campaigns, rallies and processions emphasizing the empowerment of girls and their education. Self help groups of girls be formed for sustainable livelihood making a space for their employment out of microcredits. Sounds huge, but if an initiative is taken as such, even grants from funding agencies could make it work. There should be some organizations there. Please feel free to ask if i could guide in anyway to make the right approach.


Merlin Sharontina

EK. Chemorion's picture


Sis sharontina,

i agree with you. a well informed and coordinated move could bring positive changes. There are some organizations but the magnitude of the challenge is high. I intent to link up with them, and if you know of other friends who may wish to support our coastal girls in distress, especially the right approach- and action plan...i will be very happy to share this with some friends interested in empowering them.

very much appreciated Sharon.

EK Chemorion

bewa's picture


Dear EK Chemorion, thank you for taking time to share this with the WorldPulse community. The topics you mention here are important ones- sex trafficking and exploitation, education, children's rights, HIV prevention, tourism, and the role of the government. As Michelle mentioned in her post, your willingness to present possible actions to help change the situation is very admirable. You can make a difference and you are not alone. We are thinking of you and supporting you. As you said, let us stand in solidarity with them- I hope you can find like-minded people in your community as well for support and action.

bronxesqmom's picture

Thank you for the

Thank you for the thought-provoking post EK. As a society we have to increase the perceived value of our girls' lives and futures. It seems to me that all of the people exploiting these girls believe that they are selling, buying, abusing and abandoning a cheap, reusable and disposable commodity...our girls! Our daughters are worth so much more than that. They are at least 50% of tomorrow's leaders, business owners, farmers and caretakers. As a society we owe it to our young girls to educate, protect and invest in them. The suggestions that you propose in your post are a great start!

Potter's picture

Heart-stopping Article

This is such a powerful article. Thank you for raising this issue and also thank you for your thoughtful suggestions for addressing the problem. I liked your characterization of men who exploit young girls as "sexual pests." That is a perfect and precise term for such men. When I read that term I imagined rats or mosquitoes! (I'm sure the men would not appreciate those images!) Don't these men have mothers and sisters?

I have recommended that your article find a wider audience. What you have written needs to be read not only throughout Africa but all of the world. I'm thinking of the sexual exploitation that takes place, sadly, everywhere but particularly in places with heavy tourism. Imagine if every man checking into a hotel in Mombassa or Nairobi were given a copy of your article! And then perhaps required to sign documentation that they had read it!

I felt like standing up and cheering when I was reading this. Keep writing. You have so much to say that the whole world needs to hear!

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