50 underage girls ‘sold weekly’ as sex workers in Kenya

By Athman Amran

At least 50 girls, aged between ten and 15, are sold every week to tour operators and tourist hotels at Sh60,000 each as sex workers and to star in pornographic movies, a report claims.

The report released on Tuesday by the International Peace Institute (IPI) says that the girls are trafficked or smuggled to Nairobi from North Eastern Province and Somalia.

The estimation of the number of girls smuggled per week comes from a non-governmental organisation Womankind Kenya, which is based in Garissa.

“Vehicles that transport miraa from Kenya to Somalia return loaded with young girls and women, who end up in brothels in Nairobi or who are shipped to Mombasa and destinations outside Kenya,” the report says.

The report titled Termites at Work: Transitional Organised Crime and State Erosion in Kenya was compiled by IPI executive director Mr Peter Gastrow.

The report says the girls are taken to massage parlours or beauty shops, where contacts from tour operators and hotels come to select the ones they wish to take as sex workers.

“Tour operators and hotel workers also operate as traffickers and brokers,” the report alleges.

The report says the trafficked children are then taken to scheduled villas in Mombasa where sex tourism thrives.

“The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has estimated that about 10,000 people are trafficked into Coast Province each year,” the report says.

Mombasa is a destination for people trafficked from as far as Uganda, Somalia, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

In Kenya, those who control the networks involved in trafficking of humans or smuggling migrants use supermarkets, foreign exchange bureaus and electronic shops as cover for the human trafficking business, the report says.

The report claims that most traffickers are Somalis and those who head and control the network are known as makhalis.

Code of silence

In Nairobi and Garissa, the report claims that some traffickers operate as travel agents for airlines.

“They pay taxes for their legitimate businesses to ensure that they do not attract queries from Government authorities,” the report says.

The report claims that a code of silence exists among the makhalis and their agents and contacts.

“Only other agents, brokers, corrupt senior police officers, and their lawyers know what they do behind their veneer of law abiding upright citizen,” the report claims.

There are at least five to ten makhalis in northern Kenya and in Eastleigh in Nairobi.

They each control a loosely structured network, which they run independently from each other.

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