Bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Ethiopia, Kenya is a major economic and transport hub of East Africa. Despite this, employment is scarce as the country’s economic and development trajectory is threatened by weak governance and corruption. Population growth has been dramatic since the mid-20th century due to a high birth and declining mortality rates. Sustained high fertility, early marriage followed by childbearing and unmet need for family planning are rampant across the country.

A stroll through any of Kenya’s burgeoning slums reveals the massive poverty and huge difference in the standards of living. The gap between the haves and have-nots widens every day. It’s not uncommon to find families begging for anything from passers-by. The government has ignored Kenyans living in the slums. They don't even have access to basic amenities like running water, toilets and passable roads.

The vital tourism sector contributed about 10 percent to Kenya’s gross domestic product fueled by travelers from Europe and the US. However, a spate of terror attacks in the past three years have scared away package vacationers, crippling the tourism industry.

Instead, a booming child sex tourism racket has risen. Child sex tourism is rampant in the coastal cities of Kenya, and European men comprise half of the clients. Many come to these cities in search of girls aged between 12 and 18.

The industry has made Kenya tourism one of the world's hubs for child sex tourism. The coastal region is rife with teenage mothers. Girls as well as underage boys, often leave school to cater to tourists who pay them for sex. Teenagers, known as "beach boys" hook up with older white women, who have flown here specifically for sexual encounters.

UNICEF released numbers on child trafficking in Kenya reveal that almost one-third of girls age 18 and below in the region were involved in prostitution. Trace Kenya, a local nonprofit child rights organization that strives to combat child trafficking estimates there could be as many as 100,000 child sex workers in the coastal region of Mombasa alone.

According to experts, poverty is the primary driver behind child sex tourism with even parents forcing their own children to become involved. “There is a culture among parents and children that when you get yourself a white man, then you have gotten yourself out of poverty,” says Paul Adhoch, head of Trace Kenya. “Tourists always take advantage of this and come here deliberately for that.”

As school-age children skip classes in pursuit of easy money, sex tourism results in increasing rates of school dropouts and illiteracy. This doesn’t bode well for an estimated whopping 60% of Kenyans under the age of 25.

 

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