Nairobi — A lobby group has asked the Government to commit itself in enforcing laws prohibiting the trafficking of women and girls for sex, ahead of the World Day Against Trafficking, set to be marked at the end of this month.
In a statement on Tuesday, Equality Now said the Government must acknowledge that women and girls engaging in the sex trade are vulnerable and not exploiters of men, as it is widely perceived.
It is a vice, the human rights Organisation noted, that is fueled by widespread poverty across the country and one which can be eliminated if the Government priorities gender budgeting as a component of addressing poverty and ending the discrimination of women and girls.
"Sex trafficking is the illegal trafficking of humans for sexual exploitation. It is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, worth nearly $100 billion annually, and 96 per cent of its victims are women and girls. Though international law and the laws of 158 countries criminalize sex trafficking, the ultimate destination for its victims - the sex trade - is still widely legally and socially acceptable," reads the statement.
In the country, they lament, that thousands of women and girls continue to be exploited in the expansive tourism industry, particularly in the coastal region.
"Gender inequality, discrimination of women and girls and poverty remain some of the leading causes of sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and girls," the rights group pointed out.
Equality Now Programme Officer - End Sex Trafficking, Anita Nyanjong said, "As the world marks this day, it is important to note that millions of women and girls are still trafficked for sex across the world in the lucrative sex trade. Our experience has been that exploiters of women and girls' prey on their vulnerability, caused by poverty, gender discrimination and inequality that drives their social, political and economic exclusion."
" In Kenya, we have seen many young girls being exploited into prostitution in the lucrative tourism industry due to their poverty and lack of economic opportunity. This is a global problem, that requires that all governments across the world address the exclusion of women in all sectors, and advance equality at all levels."
A report by the US Department of State last year classified Kenya as a source, transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to labour and sex trafficking.
According to the report, "The Government of Kenya does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so."
In a set of recommendations, Kenya was challenged to ensure potential victims are not inappropriately penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking.
They further called for amendments into the anti-trafficking law, to remove sentencing provisions that "allow fines in lieu (alternatives) of imprisonment" and also continue to expand oversight of overseas recruitment agencies and also conduct awareness campaigns throughout the country, focusing substantially on rural coastal areas.
Section 1 of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010 criminalized sex and labour trafficking and prescribed a sufficiently stringent punishment of no less than 30 years imprisonment or a fine of not less than Sh30 million.
The US Department of State noted that "by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking, these penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape.
Sections 14 and 15 of the Sexual Offenses Act of 2006 criminalizes the facilitation of child sex tourism and "child prostitution," and prescribed punishment of not less than 10 years imprisonment, penalties that were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape."
According to the report, girls and boys are exploited in commercial sex throughout the country, including sex tourism.
Areas that were put on the spot as fertile grounds for sex tourism include Nairobi, Kisumu and the Coast region, particularly in the informal settlements.