Urgent action needed to stop child sex work in Kenya

Kenya is one of the countries most affected by HIV in the world. Yet, it is also an example country that has successfully delivered HIV prevention programmes resulting in dramatic decrease of new HIV infections over the last couple of decades. Kenya has made huge strides in HIV prevention and the “Kenya HIV prevention Road Map” outlines an approach that aims to reduce new HIV infections to “near zero” by 2030. However, the hidden crisis of child sex work has the potential to derail the progress towards an AIDS free generation.

According to the National AIDS Control Council of Kenya sex workers have the highest reported HIV prevalence of any group in Kenya. A recent report on All Africa, by Lillian Muendo, highlights the crisis of child sex work in the coastal regions, that are rapidly becoming a popular destination for underage prostitutes. Driven by widespread poverty and family’s acceptance of child sex work, regardless of the age, sex work is seen as an acceptable means of earning a living. Children are often taken out of school in order to find new clients.

A UNICEF study found that as many as 30 percent of girls aged 12-18 in Kenya's coastal areas are involved in some form of sex work. UNICEF also estimates that among Kenyas' sex workers, 1 in 10 began before reaching puberty.

As well as significantly increasing the risk of HIV infection, this crime has a physical and emotional health consequences, as well as behavioural, developmental, social and legal implications. It is critical that child sex tourism is addressed and prosecuted. As well as, families, carers and communities informed of the risks of child sex work, and importance of protecting children’s rights.

Kenya: Parents Sell Children as Kenya's Sex Tourism Normalizes Exploitation- By Lilian Muendo, freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Source: Advert.org / allafrica.com