LATEST NEWS Kenyan sex workers: rescuing girls from traffickers

Kenyan sex workers: rescuing girls from traffickers

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A stone’s throw from world-class resorts and stunning beaches along the Kenyan coast, townships like Utange are hotspots for human trafficking, with girls exploited by locals and foreign tourists.

Elizabeth Kadzo’s five-person volunteer organization has been rescuing girls with the help of goodwill donations and personal funds. The self-proclaimed roles of the master arsonist range from breaking girls out of brothels to seeking legal redress for runaways.

why are we writing this

Sex trafficking, an underreported crime in Kenya, remains prevalent and destructive to the lives of young people. The abuse is fueled by locals and Westerners alike, but attitudes – and the law – are slowly changing.

“I can’t stay in school when the kids are [being] married,” she says.

There are some 20,000 victims of sex trafficking in Kenya, but only 46 people were successfully prosecuted for human trafficking in the year ending 2020. Activists face an uphill battle trying to disentangle sex trafficking from entrenched poverty and the ills accepted social.

A 2019 study found that child sex trafficking in Mombasa “is facilitated by family, friends and community members, tourists and strangers.” Some impoverished mothers, who are also sex workers, push their daughters into the business.

Near Utange, Mrs. Kadzo visits Zimkita, a girl who was rescued and whose case is stalled in court.

The teenager hopes to be able to return to school later this year, she says. “I want to be a lawyer, I want to help other people like me.”

MOMBASA, KENYA

One morning in May, under an already scorching sun, Elizabeth Kadzo was walking purposefully through the mountainous streets of Utange, a small town on the outskirts of Mombasa, Kenya.

Ms. Kadzo, a teacher at Utange Primary School, would normally be teaching at this time. Instead, she was on her way to the local court to inquire about a case that has dragged on for two years.

“I told my principal that I can’t stay in school when the children are [being] married,” said Ms. Kadzo. She was referring to an open secret: the disturbingly common practice of young girls being forced into sex slavery.

why are we writing this

Sex trafficking, an underreported crime in Kenya, remains prevalent and destructive to the lives of young people. The abuse is fueled by locals and Westerners alike, but attitudes – and the law – are slowly changing.

Just a few miles from the world-class resorts and white-sand beaches that draw tens of thousands of tourists to Mombasa each year, cities like Utange live a different reality. Amid rampant poverty, the coastal region is a hotbed of human trafficking, leaving girls vulnerable to sexual exploitation by both locals and foreign tourists.

About a third of Kenyans live on less than $2 a day, and in Utange, families struggled to make a living selling farm produce or doing odd jobs. Girls as young as 13 are sometimes forcibly “married”, essentially sold, to older men for a dowry. Other times, forcing girls into the sex industry is seen as odd work that feeds the family, while saving money that could be spent on education.

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