Kenya's night girls in limelight

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- In the facade of the ember street lights, stands two teenage girls scantily dressed in micro-skirts and in total defiance of the cold December breeze hitting Nairobi these days.
The tops are a brief constellation of barely hanging threads which are failing to hide the entire chest.
For any first-timer to Koinange Street, Nairobi's most active and nocturnal public walk, it would be like all the world's beauty pageant were brought together to line up the streets in preparation for the arrival of a dignitary.
However, their bikinis and catcalls - mainly directed to drivers of big cars - mainly four-wheel drive cars, give them away as serious peddlers of the flesh.
December is Kenya's tourist high season.
The hotels are fully booked and the streets populated by people in celebrative mood.
The girls, too, cashing in on the season, have taken to dress in even skimpier attire, ready to tempt and whet appetites of even those who would have chosen to go home "clean.
" They target both men and women, especially foreigners driving late, along this street, in flashy cars.
It is common to hear "baby" calls issuing from a dimly lit corner or precipice.
Pedestrians are not the preferred lot, and all the potential customers are endearingly referred to as "baby".
According to Lillian Wanjiku, 19, a confessed twilight girl, the month of December is the "harvest season for all the night girls here.
" They brave the cold, the police dragnets and sometimes harassment by night guards "just to make a living", she says.
Most of the girls in the streets are teenagers with more than half the number yet to reach the adult age of 18 years.
The trade has suddenly become lucrative, thanks to the HIV/AIDS scourge, which has increased the cost of unprotected sex by more than 100 percent.
Expatriates and diplomats are preferred as clients since they pay in dollars.
Although many girls would prefer to use condoms, Wanjiku told PANA that many patrons preferred "actual body contact" and that has made most of them charge according to how long a client would want to be with the girl and what kind of "service" he or she is interested in.
The less protected the encounter the more it costs, she adds.
In the high season, she says, it is possible for a night girl to take home not less than 10,000 shillings (70 US dollars) a day on average, translating into about 2,000 dollars a month - the net monthly salary of many a chief executive in Kenya, and a secretary or teacher's salary for 30 months.
According to children welfare officer Samson Ole Kwalla, it is the high-takings in the sex trade that has lured under-age girls into prostitution.
"This trade has become very lucrative and the young girls have left school to go and stand on the streets at night just because they can make easy money there," he says.
Most of the seasoned twilight girls, adds Ole Kwalla, are even richer than university professors since what they make in a day is what the professor would make in two or three months and that is the reason why to them education does not have any meaning at all.
There are also another category of the girls who venture into the streets to supplement their income.
During the day Wanjiku, who has secured herself a permanent "self exhibiting" corner near the Florida Night Club, says these girls are well-dressed working as secretaries or receptionists in big companies in the city.
In the night, she adds, they go into restaurant washrooms and change into bikinis ready to line up the streets and make extra money through the sex trade before they return home.
According to Teenage Mothers and Girls Association of Kenya, some 8,000 to 10,000 girls drop out of school every year, and half this number end up in the streets as prostitutes.
The association reckons that teenage prostitution and pornography were rampant in Kenya because the laws were not strong enough to deal with the issue.
For instance, the association cites the penal code that does not have adequate provisions for dealing with child sex tourism, which is on the rise in the country.
Until the authorities streamline such weaknesses in the law as demanded by the congress on the sexual exploitation of children currently meeting in Yokohama, Japan, the cold December chill will not be enough to stop the malpractice on Nairobi's streets.

19 december 2001 14:29:00

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