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Nairobi call girls exposed to new dangers as prostitution goes digital


By Amina Wako

As the sun sets beyond the skyscrapers of Nairobi, many Nairobians rush to catch buses to their homes after a busy day at work.

Others, though, make the journey in the opposite direction to start night shifts in various workplaces.

Among the commonest night workers in the city are the call girls. As early as 3pm, they line up at various high streets to lure potential clients. The services cost as low as Sh200.

Prostitution has been practised since the incident time. In fact, it is referred to as the oldest profession.

Although Nairobi MCAs passed a law in December 2017 prohibiting commercial sex work, the business is still vibrant. In the recent times, the trade has been digitized as well as in the estates.

Kenya has more than 133,675 female sex workers. Of that, more than 30,000 are in Nairobi, according to the estimates from the Ministry of Health.

The girls who line up the street such as River Road and Latema Road are between the ages of 17 and 30 years.

They are, however, in stiff competition with a new generation of the call girls – the digital twilight girls and the estate call girls.

Advertising, selling, and purchasing sex is now easier than ever, thanks to a popular website and other social media sites that specialize in the sex business.

Logging on to the website exposes all kinds of call girls complete with their location and phone numbers.

Most of the women are clad in revealing outfits that accentuate their curvy waistlines.

WELL-PAYING JOB

On the website, the clients have a variety to choose from, and once client and service provider agree, they are directed to the location. The services are post-paid.

Carol (not her real name) lost her father when she was 18 years and just fresh from high school. Misfortune followed her when they were chased away from her father’s land by her paternal grandparents. Then her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

“My sister and I started selling vegetables in a nearby market but we struggled. My sister dropped out of school to help me take care of mum. The money we got was not enough and we became desperate,” recalls Carol.

A friend of the mother saw how the girls were struggling to make ends meet and decided to offer one of them a “job”. Carol took up the opportunity but since it was in Nairobi, her younger sister was left behind to nurse their ailing mother.

“I did not ask much about the job, I was only told it was a well-paying one. At that time my main drive was how much money I was to get,” Carol recalls.

When she got to Nairobi, she was taken to a furnished house where she found more girls. It was here that she knew what awaited her.

She had nowhere to run since her mother’s friend had vanished in the thin air.

“I was scared but I also thought of all the possibilities; my mother, a chance to earn money, a chance to go back to school and a better life for my sister. Did I tell you how much I was to earn? I was told I could make up to Sh4,000 per day,” she says.

After a while, she learned through a friend she made in the house that she could make more money from a website that sells their services.

During her off days, she checked out the site, and after speaking to its administrator, her profile was up and ready for business. Within a month she had created a portfolio. She relocated to the city’s CBD along Moi Avenue.

TRADE OF THE FLESH

“Here, I made up to Sh20,000 per day on a good day, depending on what the client wants. Your profile is what will sell you,” she says.

Carol pays the administrator Sh10,000 per month so that her profile can be on the homepage.

But how does it all work?

Early in the morning, the girls pay accommodation fee and take up rooms in some of the hotels along Moi Avenue, Tom Mboya, Accra Road and River Road.

“The hotel business is currently in low season and having these girls around is a guarantee of making money,” Gertrude, a hotel manager along Accra Road offers.

Out of 38 rooms at her hotel, an average of 18 are occupied by the girls who pay Sh2,000 daily. Once a man checks out their profiles in the website and places an order, they are directed to the hotel room number to complete the transaction.

It is now two years since Carol ventured into prostitution. Her mother is now well taken care of – she even managed to build her a two bed-roomed house and took her sister back to school. Carol too is undertaking a diploma course in business management.

“I want to quit this job, that’s why I have decided to go back to school and work in a decent place,” she says.

But it is not always smooth sailing for these call girls. Their work exposes them to strangers every single day.

“I lost a close friend two years ago. The girl was left dead in her hotel room. According to the receptionist at the hotel, a young man came looking for her room number. I guess it was her client,” say Mumbi Njeri, a sex worker.

“He left after three hours but the hotel management did not suspect anything because that was the norm. The management only made the shocking discovery in the morning when the room was to be cleaned. The woman was found naked and lying in a pool of blood in the bathroom with knife wounds on her body,” Njeri narrates.

This is just one of the many risks the call girls face everyday in their line of duty. They are also often abused, raped, sodomized and beaten up by their clients after offering their services. Most of these incidents occur when the client refuses to pay for the services as agreed upon.

The girls cannot report the matter to the police because what they are doing is illegal.

RAPED AND IMPREGNATED

Sofia Mwaura is a mother of an 8-year-old boy whom she conceived when she was raped by a client. Her business is located in Mathare slums.

“We negotiated the price before I took him home. I prefer taking them to my house so I can get an extra Sh200 as charges for the room. I charge between Sh200-Sh1,000 depending on how long I’m with the man and what he wants,” she says.

The client asked to spend the night with Sofia and agreed on paying a premium Sh2,000. But in the morning, when it was time for him to leave, he forced himself on Sofia.

“He raped me without any protection for almost one hour. I struggled with him but he overpowered me. At some point, he slapped me and banged my head against the wall. The pain was too much and I gave in,” she recalls.

He then left, never to been seen again. When Sofia regained her strength, she went to a nearby hospital to get pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

“I did not report the incident to the police because I did not know how to explain what happened to me. First, because the man was a stranger and second because whatever I was doing was against the law,” she explains.

A month later, she found out that she was pregnant. She tried to abort the pregnancy but fate had other plans in store for her. Eight years on, Sofia has since quit the trade and decided to take care of her baby boy.

The Penal Code Article 153 (1) criminalizes aspects of prostitution, stating: “Every male person who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution or in any public place persistently solicits or importunes for immoral purposes, is guilty of a misdemeanor…”

Section 2 further adds: “Every woman who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution, or who is proved to have, for the purpose of gain, exercised control, direction or influence over the movements of a prostitute in such a manner as to show that she is aiding, abetting or compelling her prostitution with any person, or generally, is guilty of a felony.”

The law and the harsh penalties notwithstanding, the oldest trade in the world will continue to flourish as long as men are willing to pay for the service. This is a simple equation of supply and demand. The big question is who will guarantee these women’s safety?