Habari Za Nyumbani–on jambonewspot.com

Visit www.jambonewspot.com…..your community website for more

High cost of living in Kenya forces women into prostitution

Posted by Administrator on May 26, 2011

A woman carries her belongings as she leaves her makeshift house which is made with clay, at Kibera slum in Nirobi September 16, 2009. REUTERS/Noor Khamis

A woman carries her belongings as she leaves her makeshift house which is made with clay, at Kibera slum in Nirobi September 16, 2009. REUTERS/Noor Khamis

NAIROBI, KENYA – In the narrow corridors of the  Majengo slums in eastern Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, a group of  light-skinned women sit outside a house in the morning. A man approaches  and together they disappear inside the house.

A  woman, Mama Njeri, who sells fruit across the road from the house, says  the women are prostitutes and that they have been running their  business there since she set up her fruit stand three years ago.

“[These]  women are not Kenyans,” she says. “They are Tanzanians from Bukoba.  When they leave their country, they tell their family that they are  coming in Kenya to do business. At the end of the year, they go back to  their country, but their families don’t know what kind of business they  do.”

But she says there aren’t just Tanzanian prostitutes in the area.

“We also have Kenyans who are also doing the same job,” she says.

Before  long, the man who entered the house re-emerges. Sweating, he runs away  from the house as if he were being chased. Mama Njeri says it’s because  most of the prostitutes’ clients are married men and the house is near a  popular market, so the men fear that someone will recognize them. She  says some of the women are married, too.

During  a three-hour span, about 20 men visit the house. Mama Njeri says that  the police are aware of what is happening at the house, but the  prostitutes pay them a monthly allowance to leave them alone.

Eric  Kiraithe, a spokesman for the police department, denied the claim  saying there have been no reports of police accepting bribes from  prostitutes.

Wambugu, who declined  to give his full name, says the women pay him and other men a monthly  fee of 3,000 shillings, $35 USD, to protect them from clients who  sometimes refuse to pay after they have slept with them.

”This  is a job like other job,” Wambugu says. “[These] women have families  who depend on them, and as you may have noticed, life is very hard in  Kenya.”

The rising cost of living in  Kenya is forcing some women to turn to prostitution to raise enough  money for their families to survive – and it’s no secret. Local and  national medical experts aim to curb the spread of HIV, as regional  authorities blame conflicting police divisions and political instability  for continued prostitution here. But labor experts say the bigger  problem is cost of living and that the government’s increase of the  minimum wage this month is not enough to combat it.

Statistics  are unavailable for the number of prostitutes in Nairobi. But the  number of Kenyans living with HIV has risen anywhere from 1.3 million to  2 million from 2001 to 2007, according to the World Health  Organization.

The annual rate of  inflation in Kenya is 10 percent, according to UNICEF statistics from  2001 to 2009. But inflation has soared since then, with prices  increasing more than 100 percent between 2010 and 2011, according to  Central Organization of Trade Unions, COTU, Kenya’s main trade union  that aims to protect workers’ rights.

One woman Wambugu protects is Sarah Njeri, 31, a mother of three children – one girl and two boys.

As  Njeri, who is not related to Mama Njeri, prepares rice and beans for  lunch, her youngest child waits outside the house. Finally, a woman  tells the girl her mother doesn’t have a client and that she is allowed  to go inside. Njeri says her daughter knows not to knock when the door  is closed because it means her mom has a client.

Her daughter eats lunch quietly then returns to school.

Njeri,  originally from central Kenya, says she came to Nairobi to look for  better life with her first two children after her parents died two years  ago. She says her brothers chased her from her parents’ house because,  according to the Kikuyu ethnic group’s customs, a woman may not inherit  anything from parents.

She had her  youngest daughter with her husband, Bernard Wesonga, whom she met in  Nairobi. Njeri says he knows that she works as a prostitute.

”My husband knows so long as I use protection we [are] safe,” she says.

She  says that for 30 minutes, the women charge men who wear condoms 100  shillings, $1.15 USD, and men who don’t wear condoms 500 shillings,  $5.80 USD.

“This job is not easy,”  she says. “I have been sick for some time due to back and chest problem,  and when you are sick it means loss of money. Sometime[s] I have to do  it even when [I] am sick.”

She says  she wakes up at 5 a.m. and starts the job immediately after her children  and husband leave for school and work. She says the earlier you start  the better because you can make a lot of money before the other women  begin.

Unlike many women in the  prostitution business, Njeri also has another part-time job at a coffee  plantation factory, where she earns 200 shillings, $2.30 USD, per day.  She says she must walk to the factory, which is almost 1,000 kilometers  away, because public transportation is too expensive. She says the  coffee factory employs her for two-week stints punctuated by two weeks  at home.

”My work does not give me  enough money to support my family,” says Njeri, who has been a sex  worker since June 2010. “That is why I opted to do prostitution to be  able to cater for my family.”

Her husband used to work at the coffee factory, where they met, but was laid off in August 2009.

“For three months, the whole family was depending on me,” she says.

He now works for a Chinese contractor, but his job isn’t full-time either.

“My  husband is also not employed permanently,” she says. “He earns almost  250 shilling[s], [$2.90 USD] per day. That is not enough given that food  is very expensive in Kenya and we also have to pay house rent.”

Njeri  says her children understand that she has to do the job so that they  can have food on the table and go to school. She says that as long as  her family has food, she doesn’t consider quitting sex work. In a month,  she earns 30,000 shillings, $350 USD.

Njeri  says she is concerned about her health. Every Wednesday, Njeri and the  other women take off from prostitution to visit the nearby Pumwani  dispensary for counseling and condoms. Njeri says she isn’t HIV-positive  but that those who are also receive antiretroviral drugs in the  hospital.

Dr. Joshua Karega, the  doctor in charge of the Pumwani dispensary, says Wednesday is normally  set aside for counseling and HIV testing. He says that the area has  recorded a steep rise in HIV, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted  diseases since 2001. He says the prostitutes have told him during  counseling sessions that their clients used to be from out of town but  now include young men who say that it’s cheaper to sleep with a  prostitute than date a girl, thanks to high unemployment.

He  says that the Ministry of Health is doing nothing about the rising  rates but that the dispensary is trying to work with the government to  conduct a public bazaar to elicit solutions from area residents.

Regina  Ombam, head of strategy for the National AIDS Control Council, the  government body tasked with developing policies, strategies and  guidelines to prevent and control AIDS, emphasizes the practical  measures being taken to reduce prostitution here.

“Practical  measures such as HIV testing and counseling[,] treatment of [STIs,]  campaigns to combat stigma and discrimination[,] and the efforts to  promote gender equality and equitable distribution of resource[s] are  also required if cases such as prostitution in the area is to reduce,”  Ombam wrote in an e-mail.

Kiraithe says the police are being educated on HIV.

The  prostitutes operate just 100 kilometers from the chief’s camp – the  area government offices – a mosque and a church. COTU headquarters is  also nearby.

Francis  Atwoli, COTU secretary-general, says the women have been there for many  years, and as others die, they bring in new women. He says that he has  tried to discuss the issue with the area member of Parliament, MP, but  nothing has been done.

The area MP,  Simon Mbugua, was removed from office earlier this year after the court  nullified his 2007 win because of election malpractice. The candidates  campaigning for his spot in the election at the end of this month are  running on platforms to improve housing and employment and to send the  Tanzanians back to their country.

Atwoli  says the government needs to install a mechanism to enforce Section 154  of the Kenyan Penal Code, which makes prostitution a felony.

Samuel  Karega, the area chief, who is not related to Joshua Karega, says that  Section 155 of the Kenyan Penal Code enables magistrates to issue police  a warrant to enter and search houses where they suspect prostitution is  taking place and to arrest any prostitutes they find.

But  Karega says that enforcing the laws on prostitution is difficult  because of conflicting police divisions. He says the Administrative  Police say they are being undermined because they arrest the women but  then the Kenyan Police release them on bail instead of bringing their  cases to court.

‘’Some in the police  is responsible for the action and activities that are being undertaken  here in Majengo because the women bribe the police,” he says. “It’s very  difficult for even me to gain the support of removing the women in this  area.”

Kiraithe of the Kenyan  Police says that the government has been introducing police reforms to  educate the officers on new laws and create a police union where they  can discuss salary raises to motivate them to do their jobs without  accepting bribes.

“The issue of high  cost of living is affecting everybody in the country at the moment, and  engaging in unlawfully practices will not be tolerated,” he says. “The  police have to do their job without fear or favor, and the law must be  enforced at all times.”

Atwoli also  says that the Kenyan government should attack the root of the problem –  the rising cost of living facing the general population. He has  proposed increasing the minimum wage by 60 percent and general wages by  at least 10 percent in order to cushion all workers against rising  costs.

According to the price survey  conducted by COTU for selected consumer products and services, prices  have increased, on average, by 107 percent between 2010 and 2011. Atwoli  says issues like prostitution and insecurity will continue to rise  because the Kenyan government uses a poor consumer’s price indices   method  and argues that the prices  of basic  commodities  purchased  by  low-income  workers are too high.

“[The]  majority of the youth in Kenya are jobless, and the government has  always promised to cater for the needs of the youth,” he says. “It’s  high time that the government considers putting the needs of the youth  in the top agenda if they want issues like insecurity, HIV/AIDS, poverty  to reduce in the country.”

Labor  Minister John Munyes announced on Kenya’s Labor Day, celebrated earlier  this month, a 12.5-percent raise in the minimum wage to combat the  rising inflation.

But labor unions, which had demanded a 60-percent increase, say they are not satisfied.

COTU  called for a strike on May 23 but froze this plan after the government  agreed to more talks. Atwoli also demands that the government reduce the  price of food.

According to the  government, many factors are out of its control. The political turmoil  in the Arab world, the fall of the Kenyan shilling against international  currencies, and the rising insurance and shipping costs because of  Somali piracy are the main factors that have driven up oil prices and  led to the high cost of living in the country, according to the  government.

Source: http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/high-cost-of-living-in-kenya-forces-women-into-prostitution


5 Responses to “High cost of living in Kenya forces women into prostitution”

  1. Murani said

    A person walks 1,000 kilometers to work? Please tell us it is a typo.

  2. barry said

    ” operating 1oo kilometers from authorities”. Please do your math right..

  3. Jack Chimodzi said

    Let’s get some facts right, prostitution in Majengo has not been brrought about by the current high cost, it’s been there for more than 50 years regardless of the state of the economy. Show me one country in the world where prostitution does not exist ?

  4. Kigomba said

    If so,what is the solution?

  5. Kangemi said

    I say legalize, regulate and tax the hell out of it! The illegal nature of prostitution makes it lucrative and invites criminal elements to the business.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: