When police in Kenya’s coastal tourist city of Mombasa conduct night raids, it is not unusual for a large number of sex workers arrested to be under 18.
The government faces a struggle to end a trade that many young girls see as a fast way out of poverty and into a more glamorous life.
‘Munirah’ 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.
Munirah 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.
According to Grace Odembo, a field coordinator with the NGO, Solidarity with Women in Distress, SOLWODI, many of the girls on the streets 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, fueling the cycle of child sex work.
“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.
Read more of the story here at the IRIN news service:
KENYA: Fight against child sex tourism needs a boost
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