Prostitutes in Mombasa are up in arms claiming they are being forced to give half of their proceeds to the dreaded machete-wielding Sungu Sungu, a self-styled vigilante group.
The about 180 sex workers operating in the Kisauni sub county say they were being forced to part with half of their daily pay to the members of the gang who wait outside lodgings. Those who refuse are attacked.
Once clients leave the premises, the gang members waylay the girls and demand for their dues which they say are ‘ground fees’.
“They frisk us and take half of whatever you are found with. Nowadays we ask our clients to pay us via M-Pesa to avoid the beatings thereafter we place Sh100 in our pockets which we divide equally,” Keziah, a prostitute said.
Josephine Kananu is the latest victim of the vigilante’s brutality after she refused to part with her money on August 30.
“I had gone to buy porridge and eggs in Ziwa la Ng’ombe when they emerged from nowhere and pounced on me, asking why I had refused to pay ‘service’ fee for using their grounds in prostituting. They poured my porridge and descended on me with kicks and blows,” she said.
The 27-year-old said she fled and hid in a nearby house as the more than 20 youths warned her of dire consequences if she refuses to pay.
She was injured.
The mother of one said some of her colleagues pay Sh200 per day for ‘using the grounds’ where customers pick them.
“They came back and beat me up with my colleagues, this time I had head and lower back injuries. I have been doing this business for two years and we have never been attacked by anyone until just recently,” added Josephine.
Her efforts to seek justice has been futile, she added. She says most of her colleagues have resorted to pay the fees to avoid the embarrassment.
“Police are not helping us. We have reported the matter to them and we can identify the youths but no one has been arrested. We want justice. We are Kenyans like others,” Ms Kananu said.
She reported the matter at Bamburi police station. According to her medical report, dated September 3, the woman got soft tissue injuries on the head and the lower back.
Muslims for Human Rights and Haki Africa rapid response officer Francis Auma said cases of sexual violence are on the rise in the county.
“We are concerned especially on rape and defilement cases. Our women and girls need to be protected. Sungu Sungu should not take matters into their own hands. This is assault. We want those involved arrested,” he said.
However, Kisauni deputy county commissioner Kipchumba Rutto said he is not aware of the vigilantes collecting money from the prostitutes.
“But you see the slay queens’ business is an underground business. It is a mystery but allow us to investigate,” said the Kisauni security committee chairman.
Last year, sex workers who included gays and lesbians protested in the tourism hub after the gruesome murder of their colleague in Mtwapa.
According to the International Centre for Reproductive Health, which offers health services to prostitutes, Mombasa has about 11,500 sex workers, including men.