As Kenya celebrates the day of the girl Tuesday, the international human rights organization Equality Now indicates that Kenya is a hotspot for the commercial sexual exploitation of children in East Africa.
This year’s theme for the International Day of the Girl Child is “Our time is now—our rights, our future“.
The focus is on the multitude of challenges put in front of girls’ paths to reach their potential.
This has been made worse by the ongoing crises of climate change, COVID-19 and humanitarian conflict around the globe. Girls struggle with issues related to their education, their physical and mental wellness, and leading a life without violence.
According to the Out of the Shadows Index 2022 report, Kenya ranks at position 22 out of 60 countries in terms of prevention and position 21 in terms of response to Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA).
The report also indicates that sexual abuse of minors is perceived to be influenced by multiple factors exacerbated by negative social norms and cultural practices, poverty and social media platforms that circulate sexualised images adding that children comprise half of the survivors seeking post-rape care.
Victims of sex trafficking are trafficked through recruitment agents and taxi drivers, or by people known to them including their own families.
There are an estimated 6,356 children in the coastal towns of Kilifi, Kwale, and Mombasa who are currently engaged in CSEA, accounting for 1.6 per cent of the total population of 13-17 year-olds across the three counties, including 2.4 per cent of female 13-17-year-olds and 0.7 per cent of male 13-17-year-olds.
According to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) study, over 83 per cent of respondents reported that their parent(s) were unaware of their involvement even though three-quarters were living at home when they first engaged in commercial sex acts.
Further, only five per cent said they were introduced to the sex trade by an immediate family member like a parent or sibling.
Victims/survivors regularly recruit other children and financially profit from their involvement.
Furthermore, of the 35 per cent of respondents who said someone else helps them find clients, nearly 20 per cent of such facilitators are other children (and 78 per cent are female).
The Index 2022 report however indicates that CSEA can be solved and to do so, more needs to be done to create a holistic prevention and response system across the globe that supports existing efforts to eliminate sexual violence against children and adolescents.
In addition, Governments need to join civil society organisations, which have often been at the forefront of driving change, to fill gaps as they continue to focus on combating CSEA.
Based on this edition of the report, governments in particular must focus on:
- Developing protective legislation centred on the child’s best interests, that takes into consideration local contexts while aligning with international standards.
- Instituting policies and programmes that tackle the economic, social and environmental conditions that contribute to CSEA.
- Strengthening state capacity to better understand and address CSEA.
- Building age-appropriate long-term support systems for children affected by CSEA.
- Ensuring the justice process is adapted to the needs of the child, with specially trained staff and safe spaces.
International Day of the Girl Child is observed on October 11 to raise awareness about the importance and potential girls hold as the future of our society.
According to the United Nations’ official website, this year, there will be increased attention on issues that matter to girls in all spheres.
Bringing into the fold the governments, policymakers, and the general public. They will also focus on generating more opportunities for them to have their voices heard on the global level.