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.
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.