Trace Kenya in the Fore Front of Addressing Human Trafficking in the Coast of Kenya

2015 was a very busy year for Trace Kenya. So far, the organization supported the rescue and return of 73 young women from trafficking for labor in the Middle East countries.

In all cases, Trace Kenya made reviews on:

  • Reasons why they travelled for labor abroad
  • Country and city of travel to
  • Nature of work and payments
  • Length of stay
  • Forms of violence experienced (if any)[1]

While one would expect the reason for travel as being “to get employment for myself and fend for my family”, many married women usually say that they were not in a stable marriage, hence they felt the need to go away and stay away from an abusive, negligent or violent spouse. Usually, though the men will be made to accept to release their wives to go, but many men are often told the woman is out on scholarship or a different work from the one they end up in. Common comments are “niliona nimtokee ili niangalie watoto wangu”. Some single mothers usually go to be able to fend for their children; however by far and large, a majority is young unmarried girls – easily vulnerable to sexual abuse in their places of work.

On forms of violence, if any they all state that they face verbal abuse (in all cases of reported violence) from the employer and their wife.

Other forms of abuse are overwork and little rest and sometimes less pay than anticipated. However they also face unsolicited sexual advances – in many cases in all jobs and not just domestic work (both men and women) including one gender sexual advances that are tinged with threats to violence. Women, particularly younger women face actual sexual violence and are often gang raped. In larger household, bigger boys and their parents sexually harass a domestic worker, leading to punishments if there is any resistance.

It is alleged that the men feel it is okay to rape their harem (slaves) as this is permissible – on condition that they pay them up when they release them!

Of the 73 returnees, all except 3 reported sexual abuse – by virtue of their being female and “slaves”. For the remaining, 1 reported sexual advance by the employer (similar to office sexual harassment, but she was able to elude the employer by feigning death of a close relative and came back with promise of returning, but did not return); two reported sheer overwork, lack of sleep and little food.

In February 2015 and July 2015 Trace Kenya has also supported the return of two Tanzanian victims of trafficking back to Dar es Salaam and Tanga respectively. A girl child (16) who faced sexual harassment at every turn including from her “rescuers” in Mombasa, Kinango and Diani) and was even implicated in theft by her last Tanzanian benefactor, hence landing in jail – which turned out to be her good luck, as she was placed under probation and Trace Kenya got to assist her. The second victim, an old woman (aged 46) who was made to run away from her marriage by a secret lover, who in turn made her a sex slave in Hola Tana River, was also constantly sexually and emotionally abused. She ran away, but the man who had “married” her connived with police to arrest her as an illegal migrant. Her case came to our notice and we supported a probation report that led to her rescue. Another victim, a Rwandese woman, (32) now a registered refugee status, was equally physically and sexually abused by her Kenyan partner who perpetually taunted her “to go and report anywhere and nothing will happen to me because you are a refugee, a prostitute and have no roots” When the matter was reported to Trace Kenya, the man disappeared.

Past experiences show the same fate for victims of human trafficking and girl children of trafficking. Men do not report their experiences. In fact Trace Kenya has only been able to deal with 7 men in 24 months, compared to close to 300 women during the same period.

Trafficking in general is very violent. It has gender dimension except for trafficking for body parts extraction and begging on the streets which favor albinism and persons with disabilities respectively. It is a violent crime with gender dimension. Girls and young women are trafficked for domestic work (and related gender and sexual based violence); boys and young men are trafficked to labor in fields (and denied sexual rights as they are treated as slaves) Even a domestic worker (mboch[2]) who starts relating with the opposite sex is usually considered badly behaved and will in all probability be thrown out of the household. The employer has near total control of the worker including determining their sexual behavior!

Trafficking is also driven by sexual trade and commercial sex work. Child sex workers (commercial sexual exploitation of children) face numerous sex partners without proper protection and hence their sexual and reproductive rights are abused. Boys are introduced into male to male sexual acts without the prerequisite medical support. Trace Kenya has had several young men approach us for assistance to purchase adult diapers because they were suffering incontinence due to repeated anal sex. Besides this children faced with child sex tourism are now in the region of 50,000[3] in the coast region alone.

[1] Trace Kenya VOT assistance procedure report 2015

[2] A common slang Swahili reference to domestic workers in Kenya. Many are usually children.

[3] KPN study 2014


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