Progress of the Counter Human Trafficking Bill in Kenya

Kenyan parliament debates human trafficking bill

Written By:Catherine Achieng’a   , Posted: Tue, Jun 22, 2010

Caption: The bill if approved by parliament will see Kenya implement its obligations under the UN convention against transnational organized crime.

Human trafficking could drastically reduce following the introduction of a bill in parliament seeking to curb the vice.

Debate on the Counter Trafficking in Persons Bill moved by nominated MP Milly Odhiambo on Tuesday will be the first of its kind, to legislate laws that directly address organized crime of human trafficking.

The vice which is on the increase in Kenya has seen several persons especially women and children forced into servitude in foreign lands under the disguise of been offered employment.

The bill if approved by parliament will see Kenya implement its obligations under the UN convention against transnational organized crime including the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children who bear the greatest brunt.

Odhiambo said currently hundreds of children have been subjected to trafficking under the name of religion once their parents join occultic groupings and have them shipped off.

She added that  underage children were also being forced to work as house helps an issue that the bill will address by imposing punitive penalties to anyone found breaking the law.

Several legislators supporting the motion termed it timely pointing to the fact that it is sad that Kenya has been branded a transit point for human trafficking with a majority of its children and women targeted for sexual exploitation, forced and child labor.

At the same time they decried the magnitude at which the vice had spread blaming it largely on poverty. They said many vulnerable young men and women were falling  into the trap of traffickers who lure them under the disguise of providing employment in foreign countries.

The Bill is also seeking to establish the necessary Institutional mechanisms for the protection and support of trafficked persons and to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has cautioned Kenyans to be ware of private employment agencies that engage in human trafficking.

A local NGO also warned that Kenya was being used as a channel of trafficking women from war-torn Somalia who are sold off as sex slaves abroad.

Womankind Kenya Executive Director Hubbie Hussein revealed that  about 20 to 50 young women from northern Kenya are trafficked every week to Nairobi and other European countries.

Status of the Kenya Code for Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation (“The Code”)

Paul Adhoch and Tony Olaka

Background and Introduction

The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism is an International Code of Conduct set out by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and signed by players in Travel and Tourism as a commitment to protect children against sexual exploitation.

Kenya is one of three countries in Africa that introduced The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism. The others are Nigeria and South Africa. The Code was introduced to Kenya by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in 2004. Other partners were the Australian Embassy, Save the Children Sweden, End Child Pornography and Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), where the code was first introduced and End Child Prostitution in Kenya (ECPIK).

The first Code workshop held at Utalii Hotel in Nairobi, in 2004, arrived at two main outcomes, that:

  1. Organizations should partner and create awareness on the issues of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in Kenya.
  2. A Baseline Survey be carried out to establish the extent of sexual exploitation of children along the coast of Kenya.

This second outcome is what gave birth to the now famous UNICEF report of 2006.

Other recommendations from the workshop and subsequently the UNICEF report were:

a)      That major hotels, staff as well as guests, be sensitized on CSEC

b)      That the community and community leaders be sensitized on the issues of CSEC

c)      The law enforcement officers, especially the Tourism Police Unit (TPU) are equally sensitized on CSEC.

d)     As an indication of commitment, hotels are made to sign off on a code of conduct after a thorough training on its contents, and having met some benchmarks set by the code.

The Current Status

Following the flurry of activities that came with the code in 2006, about 40 of the over 120 hotels in Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, and Malindi in the coast region signed the code. Information on the current status is vague; however UNICEF still supports some civil society organizations to pursue the code initiative.

It was noticed that the code was International in nature, with international benchmarks that needed domestication. This is yet to be achieved.

The awareness that was created and the subsequent signing by some hotels, invariably the star rated ones, led to CSEC going underground to the non-star rated hotels and private villas dotted along the coast.

Sensitization ended at hotel level leaving out community members, and community leaders including schools, where some of the victims of CSEC are “sponsored” by some perpetrators and potential perpetrators.

Effects of the current efforts

With the advent of the code, and the work curried out by UNICEF and partners, the following issues have emerged:

i)                    Mainstream hotels lost some clients (especially repeat clients) to lower market establishments that were not very strict with the code. (No adult could walk into the hotel with a minor without some questioning, but the lower market establishments do not ask questions and are not very strict on their clientele).

ii)                  With children pairing with tourists, tour guides started losing out their jobs to informal children “tour guides”, and where the law is enforced, to older “cousin”, “friend” or pimp “tour guides”.

iii)                During the entire code of conduct, the partners took the fight to the mainstream hotels and largely ignored the community and community leaders from the main fight and the bigger picture.

Efforts to fight CSEC and insist on a domesticated Code of Conduct would reduce the cases of CSEC and other forms of child trafficking; would increase hotel bookings and serve the hotels well; safeguard professional tour guide jobs; and overally make Kenya a safe destination for both Kenyan and international travelers and their children.

Recommendations

  1. The code of conduct has effectively fought CSEC where efforts have been directed, at the star rate hotels, though only 30% have been reached.  There is need to reach out to the other remaining hotels, private villas, and lower market hotels (estimated at over 1,200) in coast region alone.
  2. Community sensitization is required. CSEC is gaining currency to a level where it will soon be considered a normalcy. A more sensitized community will help develop structures to combat CSEC.
  3. Community leaders need to be sensitized on the issues of CSEC. Their input is important in ensuring the fight against CSEC and Child Prostitution (CP) is ended.
  4. Partners undertaking CSEC and similar activities in Child Counter-Trafficking need capacity building. Many civil society organizations are fighting symptoms rather than the core problem of CSEC. Many programs are designed to tackle increasing cases of Child Pregnancies, Early Marriages (as a result of getting pregnant), Child Prostitution (as a legitimate form of earning an income) and HIV and Aids ( a result of unprotected sex)
  5. Legislation and policy relating to pedophilia, child trafficking and CSEC need to be put in place and be implemented (the Counter Trafficking Bill for instance, is specific to the issues of CSEC and child trafficking).

Paul Adhoch is executive director of Trace Kenya in Mombasa. Tony Olaka is the Code’s technical advisor.

Sex Tourism in Mombasa

January 13, 2009, 4:29 pm, New York Times

Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last few years living in Rwanda. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker.

Mombasa, Kenya, has long been world-renowned for its pristine shorelines, abundant night life and cultural attractions dating back centuries. I took my family there for vacation last week. It’s a lovely (though desperately hot) place where I cut my teeth in high school as a volunteer at what is now called Haller Park (after the Swiss agronomist who started it, Rene Haller), famous among children the world over for the unlikely relationship that sprouted there between a hippo and a tortoise a few years ago. Over the last four decades, Haller transformed desert-like limestone quarries into beautiful wetlands and park space. The area where I worked 21 years ago was completely unrecognizable and loaded with animals that my family loved seeing. Sadly, much more than Haller Park has changed in greater Mombasa.

I hadn’t a clue about the city’s thriving sex business until I noticed dozens of women and several girls and boys, no older than age 10, dressed for sale on the narrow road heading north from the city. Go-go bars and clubs frequented by sex workers form a patchwork of poverty along the road that is highly trafficked by European sun-seekers. According to my Kenyan friends, they’re seeking more than sun. When I inquired about the phenomenon, everyone told me that tightened restrictions in Thailand and elsewhere in Asia had pushed the trade to Mombasa, where dozens of weekly flights from Europe fuel its existence.

But I suspect there’s more to it. This situation is just the latest example of malfeasance and human rights misery that follows the weakest governments. Child sex tourism in Mombasa is the direct result of lax local laws and corrupt public officials, including police. The police tried on five occasions to take my driver’s license and hold it for a bribe; one can only imagine how they engage in the finances of sex work and childhood sex slavery. While the core of the problem is poverty, it’s clear that poor governance plays an enormous role in it.

Mombasa’s child sex trade is a disturbing thing to watch, but I found that it’s exploding everywhere in this scenic city, one of Africa’s major tourist destinations. Officially, the problem doesn’t exist, but according to one estimate, up to 30,000 girls between 12 and 14 years old are currently being lured into hotels and private villas along Mombasa’s north and south coasts where they are sexually exploited with promises of riches and trips abroad. In Malindi, impoverished children of both sexes looking for a new life sell their bodies to tourists along the historic town’s white, sandy beaches, and Lamu Old Town – which five years ago was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site – is now known as a place that attracts men looking for young boys. These days, many visitors to Mombasa travel there specifically for illicit sex.

So how did poverty and corruption create this situation? The growing number of children joining Mombasa’s sex tourism trade is in part attributable to the lack of opportunity and further displacement caused by the violent outcome of 2007’s disputed presidential election. It may have been kicked off in part by the dramatic fall in tourism receipts following 9/11 as well. The Kenyans I spoke with said that the situation appeared to sprout from nowhere during the last six years. With few, if any, economic prospects at hand, unscrupulous agents are able to entice boys and girls with the promise of legitimate jobs. Often, however, the kids end up being forced into sex with strangers under the supervision of their putative sponsors. Seduced by the fast cash, many may end up becoming life-long sex workers, with lives cut tragically short by AIDS and violence.

Most child prostitution incidents go unreported, but when they’re brought to light, authorities mostly do nothing. They downplay Mombasa’s role as a child-sex capital for fear that its already fragile tourism industry would be further affected. The laws don’t help either, since they don’t specifically address child prostitution or provide for stiff punishment of offenders. Even Kenya’s Liquor Licensing Act, which prohibits underage drinking, is never enforced. Bars that depend on tourism end up allowing underage drinking, fueling the illicit industry. A further byproduct of corruption is that offending tourists are ultimately able to bribe their way out of any crime or buy the silence of their young victims.

The rise of this trade is shocking, and the speed of its establishment is staggering. It could only have happened under the circumstances that now persist in Kenya: a culture of corruption that increases poverty and speeds decay.

In countries with better (but by no means perfect) governance like Uganda, Tanzania and here in Rwanda, child sex tourism is virtually non-existent (but there are signs that the child sex trade is growing). Strong families are a key to avoiding the phenomenon of poor children set adrift to make their own way in the world. Here in Rwanda, families remain strong because there is hope, stability and a relative lack of corruption. When parents can make enough money to feed and clothe their children, look out for their health, and also keep them safe, that makes an enormous difference. Combined with the knowledge that the hand of the law will come down on them if they consider selling their children for sex, the industry simply cannot lay down its roots here.

I don’t know what the prescription is for curing Mombasa’s disease. It must begin quickly with aid programs that save these children from the abyss, but that will help treat only a symptom. The real cure lies in a change at the top, the creation of a culture that values transparency and puts future opportunity in the hands of all citizens. Based on Kenya’s current political situation, the cure seems hopelessly far away.

Kenyan youth hooked to sex trade

Posted on June 18, 2008 by nairobichronicle

The sex industry in Kenya is playing a greater role in the economy as a lack of jobs pushes youths into the vice. Interestingly enough, the trade is not growing in the familiar sense of twilight girls but assuming legitimacy through massage parlours, e-commerce websites, tourism, strip clubs and international dating.

A cursory survey by the Nairobi Chronicle reveals that a significant number of young women in Kenya earn their living by engaging in relationships with executives, diplomats, senior security officers as well as tourists. The relationships usually involve the lavishing of gifts, housing, cars and cash in exchange for sex.

Apart from young women, youthful men are getting into the game by offering sexual services to upper-class men and women. As it turns out, many women who have succeeded in Kenya’s corporate sector find themselves single. Often, these women are willing to engage in relationships with younger men in exchange for providing cash and jobs.

At Kenya’s coast, there are cases of married men getting involved with female tourists for money with the full knowledge of their own wives.

So brazen has the sex industry become that recruitment is done openly through newspaper classifieds and websites. One notorious website invites job applications complete with a passport photo with promises of, “immediate employment.”

It used to be that the epicentre of Kenya’s sex trade was on Nairobi’s Koinange Street. For many years, the street was a haven for scantily-dressed women patronized by men in limousines. Not any more. Well, there’s still some business on Koinange Street. However, the fact is that after dark, every street in Nairobi becomes a den of prostitution. Those who know where to look can find a woman or a man willing to have sex for money. Famous restaurants are included in the list of sexual liaison facilities in Nairobi.

Sex trade is taking place right in the heart of the capital city. Certain buildings which house executive offices have rooms hired out for the sex trade. However, knowledge of these facilities is restricted to practitioners and clients in the trade. Its indeed ironical that hundreds of thousands of Nairobians walk past the premises with little knowledge of the actual activities within these panelled walls.

Nairobi’s massage parlours have achieved international notoriety. They are actually brothels in disguise, using the veneer of massage services to operate legitimately. Once inside the parlours, clients are told that for an extra Kshs1,000, they can get “special” services.

The massage parlours are located in respectable, upper-class residential areas such as Hurlingham, Westlands, Parklands, Spring Valley, Upper Hill, South C and even around State House. It is not possible that these establishments exist without the knowledge of authorities. The parlours have a potential destabilizing effect in the minds of young children because of their location. In some cases, clients visiting the parlours have to jump over children playing within the corridors.

Strip clubs are another growing concern, especially within Nairobi. Due to competition, an increasing number of restaurants are introducing strippers in order to gain clientele. Many of the girls are highly educated college graduates who turn to stripping for lack of employment. A monthly take-home pay of about Kshs20,000 a month (US$322) is very tempting in a poverty-stricken economy such as Kenya’s.

And then there’s the hidden face of prostitution: international dating. A survey in Nairobi cyber cafes found an overwhelming number of youth scanning their photos and uploading them to dating websites such as Match.com and Adultfriendfinder.com.

One thing that must be understood is that young people in Kenya do not join dating websites so as to get their own age-mates for romance. Far from it, majority of youths joining dating websites want to hook up with elderly, rich white men from Europe and America. The hope is that with marriage, comes the prospects of gaining citizenship in those countries. In the meantime, there will be constant demands for money to take care of “emergencies,” “school fees,” “rent,” and the like.

As a consequence, all across Nairobi will be found women renting expensive apartments, living big and buying the latest mobile phones. The women, more often than not, do not have an identifiable source of income.

Occassionally, some of the foreign men come to Kenya to visit their newly found girlfriends. Scenes of octogenarian Caucasians walking arm in arm with young Kenyan girls are quite common in our streets. Maternity hospitals in Kenya are also recording an increase in inter-racial babies born to unmarried mothers.

There is strong evidence that the sex trade is contributing to human trafficking. Some of the massage parlours and strip clubs in Nairobi are providing women from as far as India, Phillippines, South America and Eastern Europe. Experience from other parts of the world would indicate that these women are subjected to horrific human rights abuses. It is a well-known fact, for instance, that clubs in Nairobi specializing in Eastern European women are patronized by shady personalities from former communist countries.

One girl working in a massage parlour told the Nairobi Chronicle that, “its a crazy life.” The women are subjected to long working hours with few breaks. Those who provide hotel or home services often get sent off without pay. Meanwhile, things are not better for those young people dating over the internet.

There are rumours that a well-known fashion model who was dating online, got severe injuries when her “boyfriend” visited her in Kenya. It is said that the young woman had to spend thousands of shillings in medical treatment following the rendez-vous.

Kenya’s economy is growing but not fast enough to provide jobs to its youth. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people join the labor market from universities, colleges, high schools and grade school. There are simply not enough jobs for all of them. Its obvious that many of these youth will turn to the sex trade in order to acquire the glitzy lifestyle they so much want to achieve.

Unfortunately, the sex industry isn’t going to do much in creating a better society. There’s going to be an increase in rapes, in child sex and in perverted sexual practices. There will be a growth in homosexuality. Morals will become relative, that is, as long as it pays then it must be good. That is the crisis facing the youth today and which bodes ill for the future of Kenya.

Poverty leading to prostitution in Nairobi

By Njoki Karuoya, The Nation (Nairobi), 18 December 1999

Nairobi – Poverty has lent impetus to the sex trade and despite the threat of Aids, to some it is the only key to a ‘brighter’ future. Joyce Wairimu is 16 years old. She lives in Majengo, Nairobi. She is a prostitute. Or commercial sex worker, if you prefer to use the politically-correct terminology.

Joyce has been selling her body since she completed her primary education two years ago. Her going rate wavers between Sh40 and 50 per session. She told me she ‘sees’ four to six men in one day.

Shocking as this may sound to you in view of her tender age, Joyce is not an aberration in this desperately wretched slum in Nairobi’s capital city. There are many more Joyces here. Nineteen-year-old Irene Mwivano became a prostitute after completing her secondary school education in order to earn a livelihood.

What Irene and Joyce have in common is that they were introduced to the sex trade by Margaret, a well known neighbourhood pimp who specialises in finding clients for young girls. “My family is very poor,” said Joyce. “After Standard Eight, my parents could not raise the money required for me to go to secondary school.” Joyce was required to supplement her family’s income.

“Margaret, who was our neighbour at the time, approached me and told me about this job. She said I could earn money from it and she hired a room for me. She brought in men who paid me to have sex,” Joyce recalls. Her initial rates were Sh20 to 30 per session.

When she got used to the job, Joyce began to solicit for her own clients, to supplement the income that came in through Margaret’s men. “Margaret assisted with the rent, but as I got more independent, the rent gradually became my responsibility,” she says. To assist her in paying the rent, Margaret got Joyce a room-mate, Irene, who had just finished her secondary education and could not raise the money to go to college. “Now we both contribute our share of Sh700 for rent every month,” they explain. Between them, the two young girls sleep with nine to 12 men in a day, at the rate of Sh40 to 50 per session. Simple arithmetic will show you just how much money the girls can expect to make in order to cater for all their needs. And just how desperate they had to have been to think this money would raise their standard of living.

Cover Dominata Alfonse came to Kenya in search of a better life in the early 90’s. “At times the money we make is not enough for all our needs as well as rent, so we have to look for more,” Irene says. In addition to their sex ‘jobs’, the girls have day and night jobs in the city.

Being in the streets is not easy, and the girls are not always safe. The danger is largely presented by male clients who, after getting what they want, refuse to pay. “Some men threaten us with knives and others steal from us. They take the money we have collected for the day. Others beat us after they have had sex. Others take advantage of us because we are young and refuse to pay,” laments Joyce.

Many women in Majengo are commercial sex workers. They all told me they got into prostitution because of poverty.

“We are many women in this trade. Most women living in Majengo are prostitutes,” says Mastedia, who admitted to being one herself. And age is not something that can keep any woman out of the trade. Forty-eight-year-old Agnes Mutungi, whose original home is Machakos, has been a prostitute for 26 years. “I came to Nairobi from Machakos in 1972 to look for a job. Though I tried hard, I was unsuccessful and I settled in Majengo. I tried fighting against becoming what so many of the women around me had become, but after a year I gave up and began selling my body. I had to survive,” she says. Since she became a prostitute, Agnes has borne five children – all sired by different men. Her first three children are boys aged 27, 25 and 23, while her younger children are girls (11 and 6). When she had her first child, she had no choice but to continue being a commercial sex worker so that she could afford to educate him.

Thus the vicious circle began for Agnes.

Living in the cramped and congested conditions that are the trademark of the Majengo slums, Agnes’ children soon came to understand what their mother’s ‘job’ was. They witnessed daily a procession of men walking in and out of their home.

Twenty-six years later, Agnes bitterly regrets that she let this happen. She blames her lifestyle for the way her children turned out. “My third born son became a drug addict and a violent robber. Several years ago he murdered someone and was caught. Now he is in jail waiting to be hanged. My second born son is also in jail serving a six-year jail sentence for having illegal weapons,” she says quietly, sadness clouding her face. With the HIV/Aids epidemic wiping out people throughout the country, Agnes’ greatest desire is to get out of prostitution.

“I have been sick before – on and off – with gonorrhoea, syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections. I don’t want to get Aids, and I want to start earning an honest livelihood selling groceries and ‘mitumba’,” she declares.

What is interesting is that many of the commercial sex workers residing in Majengo are originally from Tanzania. Like Zelda Clements, Jesinta Rumboyo, Mastedia John, Dominata Alphonse, Fredastina Posiani and Safina Swaibu. They all say they came to Kenya in search of a better life and they all settled in Majengo in the early ’90s.

“Men just walk around here looking for sex. We hardly have to advertise ourselves as they do most of the soliciting themselves,” said Zelda. But she says it is a profession she would rather abandon. “If I had the means, I would start a shop and sell ‘mitumba’ between Kenya and Tanzania.”

A divorcee and a mother of three children aged nine and seven years (twins), Zelda prays her dream will one day come true and she will go back home to Tanzania and see her children who are currently living with her mother. “My husband left me for another woman, and I had to take care of the children. I want them to have a good education and a better life than I had,” she adds.

Jesinta’s story is similar to Zelda’s. She came to Kenya ten years ago to escape poverty and hardship in Tanzania. “I have eight brothers and sisters who all looked to me for support. When I came to Nairobi I met some friends who encouraged me to join them as commercial sex workers,” she recalls. Though her heart was not in it, she had no alternative.

Jesinta contracted chronic syphilis for which she has to seek constant treatment, even as she continues with her profession. Asked why many commercial sex workers from Majengo do not contract HIV/Aids, she said, “It’s God’s will.

We do not know. But there are many others who have died from it.”

As with young girls, the mature women cited harassment from their clients as their biggest problem. “After we’ve had sex and it is time for them to pay, some men turn on us and beat us. Some carry knives. Despite our screams, neighbours do not come to our aid, they don’t want to get involved.” says 27 yr. old Fredastina. She came to Kenya in 1994 to look for better prospects, only to realise that things were different.

“I had no choice but to become a commercial sex worker. It is a humiliating and embarrassing job. People look down on us and despise us. Men have learned to take us for granted and some just walk into our homes as if it is their right.

When we refuse to give in to their demands, they threaten or beat us. We are nothing in their eyes, and we are regarded as mere tools with no human feelings,” she cries, her eyes downcast.

The women live in the wretched makeshift shelters that are prevalent in Majengo. When it rains, the roofs and walls leak, and there is no difference between being outside in the downpour and being in the cold, wet house. “We frequently suffer from malaria and pneumonia. It is a harsh life,” Fredastina says. In spite of the hope that the work she does would earn her a decent living, she can hardly make ends meet after all.

“I want to stop doing this job. It is not safe, it has no dignity and it is not worth the money. I hope I will be able to open up my own business in future and take care of my children who I have not seen in years. I want to be a respectable woman in society,” she says.

Some young girls are lured into the profession by relatives, as happened to 30-year-old Safina. After her husband’s death, Safina’s in-laws took away all her property, leaving her with her two children.

“They did not care how we would survive,” she recalls bitterly. A couple of months later, one of the in-laws visited her and promised her a job in Nairobi. “He told me there was a job waiting for me in a hotel. I left the children with my mother and came here with him,” she recalls.

To her surprise, the job awaiting her was not the one she had envisioned. “He wanted me to become a prostitute and I refused. I demanded to be taken back home, but he refused to give me fare and instead threatened me. Eventually, I was forced to become a prostitute,” she says.

“What is most frustrating about this job is that one cannot plan ahead. It is such a dehumanising job, yet the money we make is not enough to take care of our needs, let alone have some left over to send home.”

All the same, Safina has somehow managed to educate her children. But she still wishes: “I wish I could get out and start a tailoring business.” 18-year-old Dominata is an orphan and she finds herself in the same vicious circle. “My parents died while I was still young and there was no-one to take care of us,” she recalls. The eldest of four children, it was up to Dominata to take care of the family.

“I had to drop out of school.” Dominata came to Kenya in 1994 aged 14 and immediately became a commercial sex worker. Not being streetwise, she became pregnant at age 15 by one of her clients. “My daughter died after a few months,” she says. Dominata became pregnant again last year, but that child, too, died suddenly early this year.

“I wish I could leave this job but I have no alternative. If I had the means, I would like to become a tailor,” she explains. She also says she would hate her younger sisters to go through what she has experienced, and she therefore does all she can to protect them.

Tortured by the reality of their sordid lives, it is no wonder that most of the commercial sex workers I talked to expressed a fervent desire to leave the profession. But the harsh fact is that without an alternative, they have no choice but to continue.