Sexual healing on the Kenyan Coast: Part 1

Stepping into the Gap

Martha Samuel, a 34-year-old mother of two, who now works as a volunteer with SOLWODI, turned to commercial sex work after jobs in the hotel industry evaporated as tourism was one of the hardest-hit industries in the wake of the violence that followed the general election of 2007. Originally from Nairobi, Martha used to be a waitress.

Sex tourism is a monster with many heads,
a dragon that cannot be slain in one fell swoop

“One night, some guys from Impact, a nongovernmental organisation, were trawling the pubs, looking for ladies to help. That was a turning point for me. They took us to seminars and provided us with training. I’m now trying to do the same for other women.”

Gabriel Mukhwana, another volunteer at the Diani location, says that they are inundated. Sex tourism is a monster with many heads, a dragon that cannot be slain in one fell swoop.

Issues such as human trafficking and forced marriages at a very early age (espoused by many locals) often thrust desperate victims into sex tourism.

“Around here, when a child gets pregnant, the first thing the parents want is for her to
get married. Sometimes she doesn’t even get married to the person who impregnated
her, but instead to an older man. Desperation soon sets in and next thing you know the girl finds herself in the red-light district,” Gabriel explains.

Parental Problems

The influx of women from as far as Kisumu, and even Uganda, keeps the engine of this industry going, but there is also a competitive edge to this trade.

Gabriel says when people notice children in their neighbourhood bringing home desirable items, usually purchased with proceeds from sex work, they start pushing their children to be like ‘so-and-so’, urging them to get what is euphemistically called a “sponsor”.

When confronted by situations where parents are the enablers, Martha and her colleagues are on thin ice. It’s not unusual for them to incur the wrath of these parents who think the volunteers are only out to slaughter their cash cows. As such there is a great deal of resistance to ending what has become a blight on Kenya’s once peaceful coast.

 “Sexual healing on the Kenyan Coast” continued tomorrow!

Originally published by Destination Magazine

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