> Kenya: Call Girls Exporting Sex To Juba
Joyce Joan Wangui
11 January 2012
Juba, the capital of the world's newest country, South Sudan is earning
accolades by the day.
Since the historic secession from the North mid last year, Juba has seen a
surge in trade and a massive construction of new structures, as it scrambles
for recognition in the global map. The city has attracted people from all
over the world including humanitarian workers, consulates, traders and those
in hospitality industry. The new economic euphoria, coupled by an
unprecedented cross border immigration is now flourishing the world's oldest
Commercial sex workers are drawn from neighboring countries including Kenya,
Uganda, Ethiopia and the DRC. They are thronging Juba for one mission- to
make quick money. Even the previously naive South Sudanese and several
Northerners (young girls and women) have been lured into the trade in a bid
to earn a living and sexual freedom.
In a bid to revamp a country reeling from a protracted 21 year old civil
war, it is a catch 22 scenario for foreign traders who want to export
anything that can be sold in Juba-including sex. The upsurge in sex trade,
mainly booming along the border areas and in the main city has necessitated
the influx of brothels, mainly operating as sex camps. Among the brothels
that have made house hold names include, Gumbo, Rock City, Jebel, Customs
and Airport road among others, all located within Juba town. Kenyans known
to be entrepreneurial by nature are flexing their muscles in the lucrative
business. Rock City Lodge is home to about 200 and 400 Kenyan sex workers,
according to statistics by a Juba-based NGO, Confident Children out of
Conflict, who mainly target travelers and tourists.
Although prostitution is illegal in South Sudan, many girls engage in the
trade in hide-outs masquerading as lodges. An official from the South Sudan
Aids Commission who begged anonymity admits that containing the vice is an
uphill task because it has also lured under-age South Sudanese girls sell
their bodies for a living.
"Prior to the stability of South Sudan and the signing of the CPA in 2005,
prostitution was largely associated with foreigners. It is regrettable that
our very own girls now engage in transactional sex work due to the influence
from their foreign peers." He cites poverty and lack of education as the
major contributors to commercial sex. "You see, most of these local girls
are homeless and without any family, and since they can't get descent jobs,
they resort to prostitution."
Foreign girls turning tricks are increasing in number. Statistics from a
US-funded organisation, Family Health International puts the number of sex
workers to between 4000 and 10000, which is also inclusive of locals.
A section of Kenyan girls living in Juba engage in transactional sex
voluntarily while scores of others are lured into the trade by unscrupulous
agents operating in Nairobi, who organise for the girls to go and work as
domestic workers or as waitresses, only to end up as prostitutes. Once they
enter Juba, the latter are now dependent on their 'hosts' who mainly operate
as pimps. Janet Kanini 25 has just returned from Juba. She was invited there
by her aunt (name withheld) in January last year, immediately after the
historic referendum to call for a secession of the South from the North.
"I thought that I was going to help my aunt in her restaurant situated at
the Jebel market. She had linked me up with an agency in Nairobi's river
road area who helped me with a passport and visa as well as other logistics
to enable me travel to Juba." The young girl, who allows me to use her real
names but not photograph her, says upon reaching Juba, she only worked at
her aunt's restaurant for one week. She would later be enrolled in a brothel
to work as a prostitute.
"I could service five male clients in a night. They never paid me anything
as the money went to the brothel owner who I referred to as 'mum'. Janet
talks of the sexual violence that surrounds the brothels. "The clients do
not care if you are there voluntarily or otherwise. Some even insult you
while others beat you up." She says that the issue of protection is a mirage
as some clients refuse to wear condoms. "Sometimes when you tell a man to
use a condom, he points a gun at you. Then after finishing with you, he will
mock you and leave the room, ready to 'slaughter' another girl," she says.
Janet's case represents scores of girls who are not in a position to
negotiate their sex work, or even to benefit from the money they have been
earning. Hers is a classic example of involuntary bonded labour. An action
research carried out by a Juba-based NGO, Confident Children out of Conflict
(CCC) notes that 'Pimps are the business brokers or -managers of
prostitutes. Usually the prostitutes are highly dependent on them for their
protection. Financially, they are usually dependent on them too, even to the
extent of bondage. They manage the flow of clients to the sex workers and
recover a large part of their earnings as rent in return.'
Like any other trade, sex business is booming in Juba. Most Kenyan girls
that I interviewed admit that Sudanese men are the 'new kids on the block'
as they have lots of cash. "I target tall Dinka men who drive cars with
number plates written GOSS (Government of South Sudan)," says Triza*
proudly. Triza is a fresh graduate of Nairobi University who had been a
commercial sex worker at the famous Koinange 'Red light' street in Nairobi.
She decided to export her skills into Juba because, according to her,
Nairobi is not lucrative any more. "There are so many of us at Koinange
street and with the harsh economic times in Nairobi, people are wary of
spending on sex." In Juba, she can make a whooping 1,335.77 SDG ($500) in a
week and this she does by sleeping with different men at different lodges.
Triza's clients include rich Dinka men, expatratiates but on a grey day, she
can offer her services to truck drivers who pay her a paltry 20SDG per sex
Juba's sexual landscape is a far cry from Nairobi's Koinange street. Whereas
Nairobi girls are known for positioning themselves at noticeable pick-up
points along the road, or operating in palatial homes in leafy suburbs, in
Juba, the sex business is mainly in dilapidated sex camps. I visited the
Gumbo Business Centre, which also serves as a transit area for many trucks
that deliver goods into Juba thus making it strategic for many travelers in
need of lodging.
Gumbo is lined up with numerous brothels masquerading as lodges. These are
skewed structures mainly constructed with tin and papyrus and the numerous
rows and rows of them have given birth to a sprawling slum. Never mind the
dilapidated set up of the place, with open sewers full of filth and rotten
garbage, for this is where money changes hands for female bodies. In here,
the business of sex is under the strict guidance of pimps (brothel owners)
thus making it less lucrative for the girls. It is here that you also find
under age Southern Sudanese who cannot afford to solicit for sex in Hadikas
"On a good week, I can pocket around (500 SDG) $187 and that is if I solicit
sex from one sex camp to another," says Kate* a Kenyan. Kate earns 20 SDG
per sex session and can reduce it to 10, on a rainy day. According to her
many Kenyan girls, unlike their foreign counterparts, always agree to use
condoms unless when they are under intense pressure from violent clients.
"We always get condoms from local NGO's like International HIV/Aids Alliance
and our peer educators implore on us to always use them. Sometimes when you
tell a client to wear protection, he threatens you with a knife or refuses
to pay you." She has since gone for five HIV tests which proved negative.
But this status could be short-lived.
Kate lives a double life. During the day, she works in a salon and at night,
she is a 'call' girl. She has so mastered the art that she is able to spot a
man with a rich pocket. "You know here in Juba, so many wealthy people are
coming for business and after a hard day, they need some quality time," she
says with a smile. Kate decries the deplorable life of the sex camps where
exploitation is rife.
She says that lodge owners capitalize on the trade at the expense of the
girls, "We do the donkey work but get peanuts. If I rely on the sex camps I
will be so poor, so I have to up my game by soliciting for men in night
clubs and sometimes at the border." She however admits that the influx of
twilight girls in Juba has reduced their earnings.
"I came here five years ago and that time, we were so few. A single sex act
could earn me at least 30pounds ($11). I could operate from Jebel and
Konyokonyo markets. (Jebel is the largest market in Juba which is synonymous
with sex workers, while the latter has traders of all sorts and also
specialisez in sex trade). She says that Kenyans have to compete for clients
with Ethiopian and Ugandan girls, who flock the markets and are also very
'smart' in the game. Sometimes when business is really low, they are forced
to share clients and consequently share the pay.
These sex rooms have nothing to show for it, save for the 'work' that goes
on here. The beds are made of bamboo sticks, often very weak and lack
bedsheets. Ventilation is a mirage and floors are mainly mud or sand. The
bathroom area needs a facelift, it reeks of stale urine and the taps are
ever dry. The girls have to rely on the brothel owners to provide water for
bathing. One has to part with at least $3-5 for daily rent in which case is
the amount one makes on the job. Most girls however, opt for monthly rent
which could go for $50 or less, if one negotiates with the brothel owners.
"Here is it very hard to get well-to-do clients because of the deplorable
condition of the area, but all the same we make it," says a disgruntled
Mary*, also a Kenyan. At 35, the mother of three is not ready to quit yet.
All her children were born on 'the job' and there is a probability that they
might end up like her. She talks of a great moral decadence at the brothels,
thus making it not safe for growing children. Her main clients are truck
drivers who often book nearby lodges for sleep. She says that some drivers
are so stingy with money and opt to exchange sex for food. "A client can
sleep with you and instead of giving you money, he will buy you food." These
are mainly Mundukuru( Arabic shop owners).
Though Gumbo is mainly associated with Ugandan sex workers, Kenyan girls are
gaining popularity by the day. Most sex camps here are owned by soldiers and
police men who often run the place in 'absentia' but the sex workers admit
that the same policemen solicit sex from them, 'at a very bad fee'. One
Ugandan girl told me that the police pretend to do raids at night in a bid
to stop the vice, only to end up sleeping with the girls, "Banange, are you
asking me about police raids, hahaha, we are not scared of them anymore."
Most Kenyan restaurant proprietors organize for sex clients for the call
girls. Once the clients dine in their restaurants, they are referred to the
brothels where eager girls are waiting for them. The girls will later split
the pay with the restaurant owner.
Ironically, even the areas surrounding the renowned Dr. John Garang
Mausoleaum and the Juba University roundabouts are prone to sex workers. The
International HIV & Aids Alliance, an NGO supporting community action on
Aids in developing countries, which has a presence in South Sudan, estimates
the HIV prevalence rate to be 6% in Juba. The influx of foreigners who
influence young South Sudanese into prostitution could push the figure
Now, with the alarming HIV prevalence rate, Local authorities in Juba, under
the directive of the South Sudan goverment is set to dismantle all city
brothels and deport foreign prostitutes who they blame for decaying the
morals of South Sudanese. If this happens, foreign sex workers, including
Kenyans may have to find alternative ways of earning a living.
------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------
Received on Wed Jan 11 2012 - 08:35:49 EST