Foreign Policy Blogs

Kenya's Child Sex Workers

In wake of the elections in Kenya reports have noted an increase of children in the sex trade. Agnetta Mirikau, a child protection specialist with UNICEF Kenya, stated that they had received numerous reports that children in sex trade had rapidly increased since the election. This post-violence sex work boom is fueled as the displaced have found little resources for survival. Reports over the years have shown a regular increase in the rate of child sexual exportation, however that the situation continues to deepen in post-conflict, as desperate to survive displaced girls are turning, or being forced into sex work, to earn the cash they need to get through their daily lives. The cost of their innocence and youth is most often less than $5.

In a country with a high prevalence for gender-based violence, it is no surprise that the exploitation of children has increased in the wake of Kenya's months of violence. High instances of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), spousal rape, child molestation, rape in refugee and IDP camps, have been know throughout the country. The case of child prostitution in Kenya is far from a new story, as the coastal areas and areas with military bases have long since been a hotspot for sex tourism and prostitution, especially with children.

A UNICEF report, Extent and Effect of Sex Tourism and Sexual Exploitation of Children on the Kenyan Coast, released in 2006 showed that some10-15,000 girls living in coastal areas, an estimated 30% of all 12-18 year olds residing in those areas were involved in prostitution. While an additional 2-3,000 girls and boys were involved in full time prostitution and 1 in 10 of children in commercial sex work are initiated before the age of 12 years old. UNICEF estimates that in total Kenya has up to some 30,000 children (under the age of 19) in the commercial sex industry.

In March 2002 the Children s Act was enacted to prohibit the economic exploitation of children and any work or labor which is deemed hazardous to a child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development. However despite the act and the inclusion of a Human Trafficking Unit within the police force in 2003, little impact appears to be reaching the streets and those in need.

The increase of sexual exploitation lead to an increase in HIV/AIDS, due to high instances of condomless sex and as a result of the deadly myth that sex with a virgin will cure the virus. This myth has also helped to fuel the growing number of sexually exploited children.The issue of sexual exploitation of children in Kenya looks to continue as the country's economic and political stability continues to teeter in the balance. The consequences of Kenya's generation of lost children has yet to be felt, however due to the lingering psychological trauma the effects will leave a lasting mark on Kenya's future socially, politically and economically.

The issue of trafficking and sexual exploitation in Kenya is not isolated isolated to Kenyans, as Kenya is a country of origin, destination country, and transit route for trafficking in persons. Many trafficking victims come from the neighboring countries of Uganda, Somalia and Sudan. Children in Kenya continue to be exploited for work as domestic servants and agricultural workers across the country. Victims trafficked out of, or through the country are often sent to European, Australia, North America, or the Middle East.

Sadly the increase of sexual exploitation of women and children Kenya is not an isolated case, as high instances of sexual exploitation, trafficking and rape are seen in many post conflict countries. One such case can be seen in my recent post on Sierra Leone, Despite Peace Sexual Violence Rages On in Sierra Leone.

Please see some of my earlier posts, such as: Children of the Kibera Slums, Can Kenya's Children be Healed? and What Future Awaits the Children of Kenya?

For more on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in Kenya please see the following links:
Human Trafficking and Modern-day Slavery – Kenya
US State Department – Trafficking in Persons Report 2008
ECPAT: Child Sex Tourism in Kenya
IRIN: In-Depth: Youth in crisis: Coming of age in the 21st century



Cassandra Clifford
Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict