The  Kenyan media has in the recent past been abuzz with news of the Kenyan women and a foreigner caught in the act of committing bestiality in the Kenyan Coast. This is a story that shook the nation and was trending in most social media, yet stories of child prostitutes some who are involved in pornography and drug cartels get no headliners.

The coastal town of Mtwapa has been popularized for all the wrong reasons. A growing town in the suburbs of Mombasa, Mtwapa is a favorite tourist destination which operates around the clock. The clubs and pubs in Mtwapa are host to locals and tourists alike and sex work is widespread in this busy robust tourist haven where young girls and boys linger around pubs and night clubs in the hope of getting a client. Some of these young boys and girls are living double lives as they are actively engaging in transactional sex without their parents’ knowledge.

Sexual exploitation of children continues unabated in the region where young boys and girls are exploited for commercial purposes while others intentionally and willingly engage in sex work for various reasons. Regardless of the reason child prostitution and living from the proceeds of prostitution is illegal in the country. According to the Penal Code, Cap 63 Laws of Kenya, prostitution or sex work is not prohibited by the law, but various issues surrounding sex work could be illegal, for instance living from the earnings of sex work, solicitation and indecent exposure.  Child Prostitution is not provided for under the Penal Code which was a gap in the law that has been addressed by enactment of the Sexual Offences Act (2006) and Children’s Act (2001).

Section 15 of the Children’s Act protects children against sexual exploitation and the use in prostitution, inducement or coercion to engage in any sexual activity, and exposure to obscene materials.  This provision places an obligation on everyone to refrain from doing all of the above above. The provision also lays burden on parents or guardians to protect the child from child prostitution. Section 3 of the same Act, provides that the government should take steps to ensure that a child’s rights are protected and realized.

In addition, Section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act prohibits child prostitution but is silent on themeasures to be taken on a child who is prostituting herself. However, it establishes various offences against a person who will directly or indirectly influence or cause a child to prostitute themselves. Any person who keeps a child for the sake of prostitution, or, pimps a child or takes advantage of his relationship with the child to induce him or her to have sex with another person for monetary consideration and other benefits, will be committing an offence and is liable to imprisonment  to a term not less than ten years.  A person who will also pay to have sex with a child commits an offence and is also liable to the same punishment.

Despite the legal provisions the business of the flesh involving children continues to thrive through organized networks in private houses. Middlemen and pimps who identify clients and venues continue to eke some money from negotiating deals for these children. Incidences of child prostitution will most certainly go unreported because these middlemen and pimps are often close relatives to these children. Tourists have been blamed for the escalation of child prostitution in the area, yet we forget the locals who encourage young girls to get a “Mzungu”. A girl seen walking with an elderly “Mzungu” three times the age of her father is accorded much respect and honor.

Whereas before the trade normally targeted young girls, today young boys have became prime target especially for tourists and rich locals. Beka is a 12 years old boy who combs the beach everyday together with other boys in such of white men who pay them for sex.  Sometimes he does it with fishermen at “Marina” in exchange for fish. He is a student at a local school but he doesn’t consistently attend classes. His family is aware of what he does but they have turned a blind eye as long as he continues to help support the family.

Sele on the other hand will only take clients given to him by his uncle who acts as his pimp. His uncle takes most of the proceedings which he uses for drugs and provisions. Sele does not go to school.  Twice he has been treated for Sexual Transmitted Diseases and he says his clients are men from the area though occasionally he does it with ‘wazungus’.

Young girls in the area are also involving themselves in pornography which is a booming underground business in the region. Whereas local girls will often involve themselves with sex work, girls from upcountry have gone a step further and they willingly take part in pornographic acts and live sex shows which are slowly gaining popularity in some of the clubs.

These young boys and girls are not aware of the health risks they are involved.  It is a pity that most of these children are not even aware of effective HIV and STI prevention. In the course of their “duties” they don’t always practice safe sex and will forgo the usage of condoms if the pay is more or when they have anal sex because to them anal sex does not transmit infections and is less risky as opposed to vaginal sex.

Unfortunately the government has turned a blind eye even as children continue to be exploited. As a country we have failed our children by robbing them their innocence and childhood as we continue to turn a blind eye to their defilement and abuse. Kenya is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 optional protocols on sexual exploitation and trafficking and yet the government has failed to effectively uphold it. It is high time the government acted and employ measures that will curb this growing vice otherwise the country is at risk of losing a whole generation to immorality and or HIV/AIDS.