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Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:54 am

Kenya: Country Should Stamp Out Sex Tourism And Child Prostitution

Filed under: General,kenya,usa,wealth — admin @ 5:53 am

IT IS UNFORTUNATE THAT Labour minister Newton Kulundu’s faux pas at the launch of a report hosted by the US embassy last week got more media attention than the contents of the report being launched.

The minister accused the United States and the United Kingdom of being “the greatest violators of human rights, democracy and transparency” while the visibly perturbed US ambassador, Micheal Ranneberger, looked on.

Mr Kulundu forgot one basic principal of diplomacy – do not spit in the face of your host, even if you do not agree with him.

But this lapse in judgment on the part of the minister is not a good enough reason for the media to deflect attention from the contents of the shocking report.

The report, Trafficking in Persons from a Labour Perspective: The Kenyan experience, published by the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, highlights a problem that seems to have escalated in the last few years – the buying and selling of human beings for the purpose of exploitation.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that at any given time, 12 million women, men and children worldwide are coerced into bonded labour, involuntary servitude, or sexual slavery. This modern form of slavery is the second-most lucrative business for international crime syndicates, after trafficking in weapons.

A study by the Kenyan Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) has found that Kenya is a major source, transit and destination country for trafficked women, men and children who are forced into unpaid work or forced prostitution.

Kenyan victims are trafficked to other countries mostly through bogus employment agencies that deceive victims into going abroad for work. Unsuspecting victims are then sent to Europe, Australia, North America or the Middle East/Gulf region, where they end up as bonded labour or prostitutes. Some African countries, such as South Africa and Bostswana, are also recipients of these modern-day slaves.

But while the international aspect of the trade receives the most attention, it is worth noting that internal trafficking of women and children in particular is a growing problem in Eastern Africa.

Counter-trafficking activists believe that many children from Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda are trafficked to Kenya’s coastal areas for sexual exploitation in the growing sex tourism industry.

It is estimated that in the coastal town of Mtwapa alone, between 10,000 and 20,000 children are trafficked for the purpose of sex tourism.

A recent Unicef report shows that while Italian, German and Swiss men form the bulk of the foreign tourists who sexually exploit children at the coast, a large proportion – 39 per cent – of the perpetrators are local Kenyan men.

Many of the children being exploited are not from the coast region but are imported from rural areas from around the country.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time at the Kenyan coast to know that child prostitution and sex tourism are rampant there. In Mombasa and Malindi, it is common to see aging white men well into their 70s and 80s with girls young enough to be their granddaughters.

Locals tolerate this type of sexual exploitation because, as one put it to me recently, “nothing gets a family out of poverty faster than a daughter who has a white boyfriend.”

In many cases, girls are encouraged by none other than their parents and relatives to look for older white men who will not only pay the girl for her services, but her family as well.

The Unicef report also found that witchdoctors are commonly engaged by sex workers to ensure a steady supply of foreign tourists who can support them. (The allure of the foreign tourist is greater than that of a local tourist as he is often able to pay more, and is likely to be a seasonal client, thereby allowing the women and girls to have more than one “boyfriend” in a given year.)

Many of the girls (and some boys) are the source of income to impoverished parents living in deprived rural areas. Others make a lot of money for middlemen and traffickers who supply children and women to tourists looking for sex while on holiday.

The sad thing is that despite the passing of the Sexual Offences Bill and the publication of damning reports that confirm that Kenya is fast becoming a preferred destination for sex tourists, no one has either been arrested or deported for engaging in sex tourism or paedophilia.

Tourism may be a leading revenue earner for Kenya, but it is about time we vetted the tourists who come into this country.

Known paedophiles and sex tourists must not be given a visa to enter the country. Their records must be entered into every immigration and security database in the world, including Interpol. Parents, relatives and middlemen forcing children into servitude or prostitution must be arrested and prosecuted.

More importantly, we must create the economic and social conditions that prevent parents, relatives, middlemen and traffickers from condemning our children to lives of sexual slavery.

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