Known for its beautiful stellar beaches, world-class resorts, and unique cultures, the Kenyan coastal region is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations — not just in Kenya — but around the world.
From Diani Beach to Lamu to North Coast to Malindi and Watamu, the Kenyan coast is a unique holiday destination, where tourists from all over the world come to enjoy seaside life and experience some of Africa’s cultures and traditions.
But even with some of Africa’s best on display, the Kenyan coast has of late hit international headlines with disturbing stories of sex tourism. Of greater concern is the fact that many children — some as young as 13 years old — are also tied up in this unfortunate industry.
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Child protection organizations and human rights defenders in this region have often registered their apprehensions over the growing number of children being trafficked and forced in to sex tourism.
These organizations argue that while a majority of tourists visit the Kenyan coast to relax and enjoy unique experiences, a significant number of them are touring the region for the sole purpose of engaging in sex with Kenyan minors.
Local reports say that at least 30,000 Kenyan girls, the majority of who are below the legal age of 18 years, are involved in sex tourism.
In addition, Trace Kenya Group, a local non-profit organization, estimates that there could be more than 40,000 child sex workers in Mombasa, with the trade extending to other parts of the coastal region at an unprecedented rate.
Sex Exploitation in the Name of Charity
Investigations by local media show a growing crisis on the Kenyan coast, with the culprits devising new ways of evading the long arm of justice almost on a daily basis.
It is alleged that these pedophiles, the majority of who come from Europe and America, are targeting children from poverty-stricken towns and villages in the region under the guise of giving them scholarships.
These sex tourists are said to work in cahoots with locals who run different social media platforms, where they post pictures of poor Kenyan kids looking for aid and scholarships.
It is reported that these pictures are sampled by foreign pedophiles who later travel to Kenya under the pretext of tourism to meet and have sex with the victims.
This trade is cited as one of the main factors contributing to the growing number of school dropouts in the Kenyan coastal region, with children as young as 13 years dropping out of school to work as sex workers.
This has also contributed to the spread of HIV and drug abuse among young people in the region. What’s worse is the fact that some parents are selling their children to these pedophiles for money.
Others are aware of the kind of business their young daughters and sons are involved in but don’t have a choice other than to let them continue provided they come back home with enough money to buy food and other basic items.
It’s a case of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Prostitution or any other form of sex work is illegal in Kenya and the law puts the age of sexual consent at 18 years.
Under the Kenyan Sexual Offences Act 2006, it is a criminal offense for anyone to have carnal knowledge with a child who is below the age of 18 years. Upon conviction, such offenders are liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than 15 years.
But although these laws have played an important part in fighting the sexual exploitation of children in Kenya, the problem is still widespread, with the culprits continuing to develop new tricks to evade the law.