In Mombasa, a big tourist city along the Kenyan coast, sexual tourism is devastating the childhood of girls and boys who have no alternative to survive but to engage in prostitution. A few young girls victims of this scourge give a harrowing testimony of their life, their pain, their sadness and their hopes. Through their eyes, we discover the ravages caused by sexual tourists on these girls’ and boys’ childhood.
In Kenya, like in many countries across the world, children have no other choice but to engage in prostitution to survive. A large number of children who became sex workers moved to other areas of Kenya along the sea side, where are living some of the poorest communities. At least 30% of girls aged 12 to 18 – 10 to 15,000 in total – living in these districts are involved in casual sex for cash or gifts.
Furthermore, 35.5% of all sexual acts involving children that have been recorded in the survey have been committed without condoms. ‘Tourists and Kenyans who abuse children must be arrested, brought to trial and punished.’ said UNICEF’s Kenya representative Heimo Laakkonen. He also insisted that victims should not be criminalised. Male tourists engaged in this practice – most often with complete impunity – come from Italy (18%), Germany (14%) and Switzerland (12%): these nationalities rank as the most common clients in child sex exploitation.
Ranking 5th and 6th are Ugandans and Tanzanians, before British and Saudi tourists. Sexual tourism and child prostitution are widely spread and unchallenged in Kenya, particularly along the Indian Ocean coast, calling for an emergency response.