a significant number of young women in Kenya earn their living by engaging in relationships with executives, diplomats, senior security officers as well as tourists. The relationships usually involve the lavishing of gifts, housing, cars and cash in exchange for sex.
Apart from young women, youthful men are getting into the game by offering sexual services to upper-class men and women. As it turns out, many women who have succeeded in Kenya’s corporate sector find themselves single. Often, these women are willing to engage in relationships with younger men in exchange for providing cash and jobs.
At Kenya’s coast, there are cases of married men getting involved with female tourists for money with the full knowledge of their own wives.
So brazen has the sex industry become that recruitment is done openly through newspaper classifieds and websites. One notorious website invites job applications complete with a passport photo with promises of, “immediate employment.”
It used to be that the epicentre of Kenya’s sex trade was on Nairobi’s Koinange Street. For many years, the street was a haven for scantily-dressed women patronized by men in limousines. Not any more. Well, there’s still some business on Koinange Street. However, the fact is that after dark, every street in Nairobi becomes a den of prostitution. Those who know where to look can find a woman or a man willing to have sex for money. Famous restaurants are included in the list of sexual liaison facilities in Nairobi.
Sex trade is taking place right in the heart of the capital city. Certain buildings which house executive offices have rooms hired out for the sex trade. However, knowledge of these facilities is restricted to practitioners and clients in the trade. Its indeed ironical that hundreds of thousands of Nairobians walk past the premises with little knowledge of the actual activities within these panelled walls.
Nairobi’s massage parlours have achieved international notoriety. They are actually brothels in disguise, using the veneer of massage services to operate legitimately. Once inside the parlours, clients are told that for an extra Kshs1,000, they can get “special” services.
The massage parlours are located in respectable, upper-class residential areas such as Hurlingham, Westlands, Parklands, Spring Valley, Upper Hill, South C and even around State House. It is not possible that these establishments exist without the knowledge of authorities. The parlours have a potential destabilizing effect in the minds of young children because of their location. In some cases, clients visiting the parlours have to jump over children playing within the corridors.
Strip clubs are another growing concern, especially within Nairobi. Due to competition, an increasing number of restaurants are introducing strippers in order to gain clientele. Many of the girls are highly educated college graduates who turn to stripping for lack of employment. A monthly take-home pay of about Kshs20,000 a month (US$322) is very tempting in a poverty-stricken economy such as Kenya’s.
And then there’s the hidden face of prostitution: international dating. A survey in Nairobi cyber cafes found an overwhelming number of youth scanning their photos and uploading them to dating websites such as Match.com and Adultfriendfinder.com.
One thing that must be understood is that young people in Kenya do not join dating websites so as to get their own age-mates for romance. Far from it, majority of youths joining dating websites want to hook up with elderly, rich white men from Europe and America. The hope is that with marriage, comes the prospects of gaining citizenship in those countries. In the meantime, there will be constant demands for money to take care of “emergencies,” “school fees,” “rent,” and the like.
As a consequence, all across Nairobi will be found women renting expensive apartments, living big and buying the latest mobile phones. The women, more often than not, do not have an identifiable source of income.
Occassionally, some of the foreign men come to Kenya to visit their newly found girlfriends. Scenes of octogenarian Caucasians walking arm in arm with young Kenyan girls are quite common in our streets. Maternity hospitals in Kenya are also recording an increase in inter-racial babies born to unmarried mothers.
There is strong evidence that the sex trade is contributing to human trafficking. Some of the massage parlours and strip clubs in Nairobi are providing women from as far as India, Phillippines, South America and Eastern Europe. Experience from other parts of the world would indicate that these women are subjected to horrific human rights abuses. It is a well-known fact, for instance, that clubs in Nairobi specializing in Eastern European women are patronized by shady personalities from former communist countries.
One girl working in a massage parlour told the Nairobi Chronicle that, “its a crazy life.” The women are subjected to long working hours with few breaks. Those who provide hotel or home services often get sent off without pay. Meanwhile, things are not better for those young people dating over the internet.
There are rumours that a well-known fashion model who was dating online, got severe injuries when her “boyfriend” visited her in Kenya. It is said that the young woman had to spend thousands of shillings in medical treatment following the rendez-vous.
Kenya’s economy is growing but not fast enough to provide jobs to its youth. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people join the labor market from universities, colleges, high schools and grade school. There are simply not enough jobs for all of them. Its obvious that many of these youth will turn to the sex trade in order to acquire the glitzy lifestyle they so much want to achieve.
Unfortunately, the sex industry isn’t going to do much in creating a better society. There’s going to be an increase in rapes, in child sex and in perverted sexual practices. There will be a growth in homosexuality. Morals will become relative, that is, as long as it pays then it must be good. That is the crisis facing the youth today and which bodes ill for the future of Kenya.