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About the Author

Johan Knols
Blogger, safari specialist, professional wildlife guide (Woerden, Netherlands)

Johan Knols is the owner of the planyoursafari blog. He studied tourism in the Netherlands and has been working in the African tourism industry for nearly 15 years. Starting as lodge manager in the Serengeti in Tanzania, he eventually owned his own mobile safari company in Botswana. Johan received his professional wildlife- guides licence in 1998 and was awarded the title of Honorary Wildlife Officer with the Botswana Wildlife and National Parks authority in 2005. During his time in Africa he has managed upmarket safari lodges and has done overland trips in the luxury and semi-luxury sector. At the moment he is a full-time blogger giving tips and advices on everything related to African safaris.


A Sexy Day In Kenya (first update)

Published 13th April 2010 - 36 comments - 20726 views -

When kids swap school for clubs

Somewhere on the Kenyan Coast

05.14 am

Heinz (53, German) has another three hours before his charter-plane touches down in Mombasa.

Grace (14, Kenyan) is carrying her little brother and is on her way to fetch water.

Roberto (64, Italian) is still fast asleep, unaware of his pending hang-over.

Mary (12, Kenyan) is dressing her younger sister for school

Moses (42, Kenyan) is smoking a cigarette in front of his house overlooking the beach.

10.36 am

Heinz has unpacked and is having his first Tusker (local beer) on the beach.

Grace just fed her little brother, swept the floor and is doing the dishes.

Roberto cracks a painkiller and vaguely remembers last night.

Mary is on her way for a hair extension and some new clothes.

Moses hates town-council meetings and anti-corruption investigations.

15.01 pm

Heinz buys some souvenirs from a beach-boy and asks where tonight’s action will be.

Grace had a shower from a leaking bucket and sprays on some cheap perfume.

Roberto chats to other Italian tourists and watches the Kenyan beach-boys.

Mary feels on top of the world and feels the stares from the men.

Moses got off the hook and needs a beverage and something to cheer him up.

20.58 pm

Heinz orders some drinks for Mary and some of her girlfriends.

Grace opens the door for Moses and leads him into the bedroom.

Roberto’s brain is making overtime while chatting ‘innocently’ to his Kenyan male friends.

Mary wispers in Heinz’s ear and puts her hand on his leg.

Moses decides it is his last visit to Grace because he wants a younger girl.

01.12 am

Heinz pays Mary five euro extra. Without a condom is so much nicer.

Grace walks into the club and sees an Italian looking man walking out with a boy.

Roberto ushers the boy inside his room and looks if he has been followed.

Mary returns to the club, meets Grace and points at two other male tourists.

Moses tells his wife he had a long day.

This is a fictitious day that could happen in virtually any developing country with lots of tourists. The report on sex tourism in Kenya should only be seen in a wider context and is most likely only the tip of the iceberg.

Some facts

- 10-15 thousand children on the Kenyan Coast are involved in casual sex work.

- 2-3 thousand girls and boys are involved full-time in commercial sex work.

- The fundamental breakdown and corruption of local families and communities results in an acceptance of sexual exploitation of children.

- 38% of the clients are from Kenya, 18% from Italy, 14% from Germany and 12% from Switzerland.



( First update: 10/06/2010)

On the 9th of June 2010, the South African Tourism and hospitality industry signed the 'Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct', which protects children from being (sexually) exploited within its tourism. The hope is that this code of conduct will also be effective long after the World Cup games have left the country.
Laws on child sex abuse have been tightened before the games have started, an initiative that was welcomed by UNICEF.

So far 1000 companies in 35 coutries have signed the Code. To read the full news article click here.




  • Lara Smallman on 13th April 2010:

    Thanks for posting this Johan. Sadly, trafficking is still very much alive and kicking. The trafficking of children for sexual exploitation is a reality all over the world, but so rarely gets covered by the media.

    I was shocked to recently read that the trafficking industry as whole makes twice as much as Coca Cola does.

  • Lara Smallman on 13th April 2010:

    Oh, and I almost forgot: Check out

  • Johan Knols on 13th April 2010:

    Thanks for your comment and link Lara. What struck me most is that Kenyans regard it as completely normal what is happening. Does that maybe say something about a difference between african and non-african sexual morale?

  • Lara Smallman on 13th April 2010:

    No I don’t think it’s about morality, it’s about culture. As much as we are horrified by this practice, plenty of things we do here would shock Africans.

  • Johan Knols on 13th April 2010:

    Aren’t cultures formed through our morals? No matter how it is, it could very well be that Africans see things different than us and the other way around. That is why we have to be careful with implementing our morals onto Africans.

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 13th April 2010:

    This is terrible. It’s such a disgrace, such evil…

    But we should not forget the other side, the European pedophiles. How sick do you have to be to to this? Another problem is that they get away with this so easily. A few dirty pounds here and there, and the job is done, the police silenced, and they can go on emitting more CO2 on their way to their “developed” home after committing such crimes, leaving those children dehumanized and forever traumatized. I’m so angry!

    What’s the government gonna do about it? They mentioned some extra forces, but how real is that, Johan? And is there a way to prosecute the pedophiles back in Europe?

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 13th April 2010:

    I think it’s more about circumstances. If those people had more money to survive, they wouldn’t allow their children to sell themselves. Nobody sells their bodies unless they see no other way to stay alive which is the primary instinct.

    What terrifies me most is the level to which poverty and exploitation had brought these people, where all respect to other human being is lost and the other is seen as a tool to satisfy one’s own vices.

  • Ian Sullivan on 13th April 2010:

    I think Geidre makes some interesting points. Europeans get away with being peadophiles much easier in developing countries than in Europe.
    And the debate between culture and morality is certainly interesting. In Europe a few hundred years ago a man being with a 14 year old wouldn’t have seemed so odd…...

  • Johan Knols on 13th April 2010:

    Thanks for your comments Giedre,

    It is difficult enough as it is to get pedophiles prosecuted here in Europe, let alone if they are caught in Africa. As you rightly state: money speaks a lot stronger over there.
    I do know that resorts on the kenyan coast have started an initiative by being child-prostitution free:

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 13th April 2010:

    Thanks for that link, Johan. And for bringing up this traumatic issue. I really hope that that filthy Heinz and the like will be punished for their crimes. The sooner the better.

    As for culture and morality… You are right, Ian, reminding that things have been different. Everything is relative, and culture too. Give it other circumstances and it might not be recognizable.

  • Robert Stefanicki on 13th April 2010:

    Thank you, Johan, for not moralizing on this delicate subject.

    @Giedre: Your faith that “Nobody sells their bodies unless they see no other way to stay alive” is noble, but false. I was investigating this thing in Thailand and, scary to say, prostitution is often just an easy and fast way of earning money. In three nights she earns one month salary of a shop attendant, sometimes it’s hard to resist such a temptation (I am talking here about adult prostitution, not child).

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 13th April 2010:

    It’s all about the money…

    Yes Robert, I was referring to the situation Johan and the video described, where people were clearly desperate to survive, as opposed to make some easy money. And there is a distinction between adult prostitution if it is intended and exploited children.

  • Aija Vanaga on 13th April 2010:

    This is something worth thinking about. And considering as threat to society and world.

  • Stefan May on 13th April 2010:

    Similar stories one can read about from Cambodia

    Or other countries (Morocco in this case)

    Or the US

    The problem is lack of enforcement or protection of children’s rights and general deprivation of the local families and communities by poverty. In such an environment powerless and unprotected children easily fall victim to perverts that have their way with them. Pervs you have in all shades and colours and of all origins everywhere. Add nice beaches and a corrupt and inept state and you have a great tourism site for the sexual predators of the whole world, accompanied by local pimps counting their money.

  • Jodi Bush on 13th April 2010:

    I think the bottom line is that regardless of why the child does it (money, a misplaced sense of adventure, desperation…) the adult is knowingly exploiting them. Also, prostitution is very different from having a relationship. If it’s simply a matter that in certain cultures it is deemed acceptable to marry at 14 and subsequently have sex that’s one thing, but for people to deliberately seek out vulnerable kids is simply disgusting. And it’s not simply going on in developing countries - women are being trafficked into England, America, France etc. and exploited under our very noses. Locked away with no hope of escape. It’s a widespread and shocking problem.

  • Robert Stefanicki on 13th April 2010:

    Jodi touched something I would like to rewrite into moral/culture exercise for TH!NKers: 14 years old is a child in the West. But in Ruritania this is already an adult. Now for the sake of this exercise assume that you accept consensual adult prostitution. Do you also accept paid sex with 14-years old in Ruritania? If not - isn’t it imposition of your own cultural pattern to others?

  • Johan Knols on 13th April 2010:

    That it is not only male clients abusing young girls, but also white females looking for an easy prey is shown in this article from a British newspaper:
    Is this situation the same or is it different than the situation in the original article?

  • Glenn Upton-Fletcher on 14th April 2010:

    This a really big problem Africa wide. Very difficult to know where to start, but in basics it is the systems that are at fault. I am no expert in tackling such issues my thoughts below are from personal observation, and concern. The first thing for me would be is that this is all about economics on one side, which in this case referred to as poverty. The need to earn something to keep families going, money for self and so on. On the other, rulers seem to be slow to take up the fight as this in some sick way solves some of the problems, well at least takes the issue out of the lime light and allows the bad governance to continue. The problem is such large scale that this need to be tackled from a government level with legislation put in place, and a system that is resistant to corruption of implemented measures. There would have to be a massive effort put in place to really look after the communities they govern, transparency, accountability with the nations resources fed back through to the communities and populace of the nation. This comment is not just for the country referred to in the link above but Africa as a whole. Africa by no means is the only continent with these evil practices. I do believe though that as other nations crack down on this crime in other parts of the world, Asia, South America, that Africa has become the new destination, that is loosing control of what has been a long, under the radar problem. We as proud citizens need to curb, control and stamp out the abuse of our children. This sort of needed change begins with us, the concerned citizens, being responsible to people we come into contact with. As a last thought, this abuse is taking place in the communities by ‘trusted’ people of these vulnerable groups. The fix is something i would think needs to start right at the very bottom and the establish a sound base from which to bring lasting solutions. The very communities we come into contact with is a good place to start, people we may employ, sublet services to, and the clients we are responsible for may, for instance need to pass some sort of criteria. This may mean loss of some income, but…....... this is going to be some start in taking on responsibility.

    Their are many many other thoughts i have, but there must be some sort of limits to what can be discussed in a discussion of this nature. Some things could be very offensive, accusatory, although true, and this is not going to help in a free debate on the concern raised. People of influence need to imagine if this was their child….... we may yet see some dramatic change then.

  • Jodi Bush on 14th April 2010:

    @ Robert - I would say that someone who specifically travels to Ruritania in order to have sex with a 14 year old because doing so in their country would be considered pedophilia is committing an act of abuse and should be sent to jail.

    @ Johan - I think older women go abroad to find younger men, but on nowhere near the scale as men do, and generally it’s to find a lover rather than a child to f@$k

    @ Glen - I agree, these problems are rooted in systemic issues and can’t be solved as an isolated issue. Until the economic, legal, educational, political etc. problems are resolved then these abuses will not be eradicated.

  • Johan Knols on 15th April 2010:

    Hi Jodi,

    In my opinion you are cutting corners.
    I agree that more men than women are looking for ‘lovers’. But the amount of women is on the increase.
    Furthermore, the reasons for Africans to engage in sex with tourists is the same, whether you are a 14 year old girl or an 18 year old boy, they are both looking for money.
    And as far as women are looking for ‘lovers’, do they take their lovers back home? I guess not…....
    So please explain the difference to me.

  • Clare Herbert on 15th April 2010:

    Great post and interesting debate in the comments.

  • Deborah Langridge on 15th April 2010:

    This, quite rightly, makes me so angry and I have seen this for myself during my time in Diani Beach!! Unfortunately, all the time people are starving in countries such as Kenya the sex industry will remain!

  • Glenn Upton-Fletcher on 15th April 2010:

    Africa for a millennia has had a seemingly casual approach to sex, and in its cultural ways there are many things that the western world will not understand, and quite possibly cannot be expected to. The west has progressed along its path to ‘civilisation’ and so to has Africa. A lot of influence on Africa has come from off the continent. What may be seen as a wrong in the west is not so in Africa. With regards to this debate though is that across humanity some things are becoming universal. In this case children are now living in an age where they should be free to choose when they get married, engage in sex and so on. This is NOT to say that they have all rights to just go out and have sex. We as parents should be educating them on the in’s and outs of this. My point is that in cultures where sex and marriage are pressed on what is a minor needs to be redressed. The main victims are girls, and personally their lives are over before they have begun. This could go some way in curbing the practice that some families actively engage and send out their children to bring home money from the sex trade. Quite often lazy parenting, and resorting to cultural practice for monetary gain. This by no means is a stand alone suggestion but part of an idea to join the whole raft of ideas and actions already out there and under debate here. Fuelling the ease of the money to be made is ‘people’ that are taking advantage of the poverty of these vulnerable groups and exploiting the strength of currency to get a cheap ‘sex fix’. It is these types of people that need to be targeted as part of the problem. They are acting in an irresponsible manner as possibly in their home countries they would face the law for their actions, so off to places which are vulnerable to their abuses and lack of the need to be accountable. Having said all that, Africa is awakening to this but slow to act where speed is of the essence. Young lives are being destroyed in all sorts of ways, from physical to mental ills. Again the problems have a possible main root cause of economics, governance, greed and corruption.

    As an after thought if nations outside Africa, Asia and other places that are falling victim to the irresponsible behaviour of western sex tourists were to take much sterner action (e.g. travel bans) against know sex tourists, and abusers of minors which would not be tolerated in their home countries this might just be a good place to start as citizens concerned for the welfare of the children of these vulnerable communities. Laws are just to sloppy and punishment in western countries personally i think are nowhere near severe enough. Or do we suffer the same lack of commitment to the task. It might just save western nations own children from the horror of this abuse.

  • Jodi Bush on 15th April 2010:

    @ Johan - I’m not cutting corners, I’m simply putting your statement into perspective. Yes women also do despicable things, and yes women go abroad to take advantage of vulnerable men - but not on the same scale. I think that the problem should be tackled in general, whether it is boys or girls being abused, I simply think reality shows that men are the most prevalent sex tourists. It was an observation.

  • Johan Knols on 16th April 2010:

    @ Glenn,
    Thanks again for your extensive comment to which I have nothing to add. I know that the debate about pedophiles in Holland and how society should deal with them is very hot and I am sure that in the near future we are going to see a change of law.

    @ Jodi,
    As far as your observation goes: You are right!

  • Sandy on 16th April 2010:

    Johan - this post brought tears to my eyes.  I have seen this firsthand, having lived in Harare near 2nd Street extension.  The women are selling tomatoes on the streets during the day, getting their hair, nails and makeup done up at the same time.  After closing shop, they walk a few hundred yards to the “pick-up” areas, where they then sell themselves to diplomats, foreigners, high-earners, etc.  It is very depressing to witness this.  As @Glenn says above, the sad issue is that the girls are getting younger and younger.  In my experience, the family is persuading them to go out and make some money.  80% of the population in Zimbabwe is unemployed, actually this is the government statistic, I’m sure it is much higher.  My aunt was heavily involved in an organization in trying to assist these women with suggesting they carry condoms or have female condoms, it was so hard trying to get them to understand that they would be helping themselves.  But it is not part of their culture, and changing their culture is very difficult.  Even when it comes to sex within their marriage.  We can only keep trying to help them, try to get them to change their culture.  I’m not sure that I know how to stop the sex trade either, having witnessed it and trying to stop it, it really gets to me.  Again, as many above have addressed, I do think it’s the “people” with money that we have to educate and get this horrific abuse of power and money sorted.  What a great post!

  • Johan Knols on 21st April 2010:

    @ Glenn
    I am especially happy about the fact that you acknowledge the differences between the African approach to sex and the that of the rest of the world and that everybody should respect that difference.I also agree with you that some values should become universal.
    The trick is now how to convince African parents to protect their children and convince the children to refrain from these activities, without being seen as the ‘know-it-all’s’.

    Unfortunately there are still way too many myths circulating about condom use. Myths that are being kept in place by men that prefer not to use them (as most Africans do). “you are not a man if you do it with” or that “the white man put the HIV virus in condoms to get rid of Africans”. You having lived in Zimbabwe are most likely aware of the excuses being used. I guess it all boils down to education (again).

  • Lucy Setian on 29th April 2010:

    great told story…and really sad truth.

  • malaika on 30th April 2010:

    @ Johan: “What struck me most is that Kenyans regard it as completely normal what is happening. Does that maybe say something about a difference between african and non-african sexual morale?”

    Am Kenyan and I do not think this is “normal”. This is a far more complex than you can imagine; like most of Africa’s problems it cannot be treated by merely saying “they are different from us”. Believe me when I say Africa’s morality is no different from any other IN SPITE of everything you might have read, seen or heard! Africans are quite shocked by some things the west finds “normal”. When my 72 year old mother first went to France she was shocked to see people kissing on the streets. She had been shielded from that kind of thing all her life. Coastal Kenya’s morality lies in ruins because of sex tourism not because Africans generally take a casual view to sex. I have heard this so many times and I often wonder where the fallacy first began. Is it the reason that western men I meet think am fair game?

    Back to child prostitution, people are just weary, and tend to accept things they think they cannot change. Really I cannot overemphasize how complex this is. Like many of you have said, poverty is at the root of it and many just take what they think and have proved to be an easy way out. A Kenyan daily recently highlighted how married couples separate in Coastal Malindi during the tourist high season so that each partner could go off with a lover from the west to make some money. These people then get back together and life goes on. Its reality. It’s not a moral standard we live by.

    Having said that, thanks for highlighting this and I hope that many people who read your blog will be outraged by what you have said. Perhaps like drugs, one should tackle both ends of the supply chain.

  • Johan Knols on 30th April 2010:

    Hello Malaika (always liked that name! (Angel))

    Let me start by saying that I am very exited that a Kenyan, and on top of that a lady, is joining this discussion.
    I first would like to comment on “they are different from us”.
    The morality we are talking about might in its origins not differ between Africans and non-Africans, but the fact that your grand mother was shocked by kissing people (something that we regard as absolutely normal) already implicates that there ARE differences. This does not mean that one moral view is better than the other by the way.
    To bring this discussion in a wider context, I think it is time that we DO realize that there are differences between Africans and non-Africans as this would hopefully increase the mutual understanding and finish the believe that all problems in the world should be solved in a western fashion.
    Secondly, and I am back to child prostitution, would I be interested to hear from you the complexities you are referring to. Is there more than the obvious poverty that drives kids in to prostitution and are you saying that the morality under couples is there but that economic circumstances force them into ‘immoral’ behavior?

    Since it is so easy to get connected via the web, I kindly invite you to get more of your friends involved in this matter so we can not only have a an online discussion amongst people of this platform, but with people that are dealing directly with this issue as well.
    Thanks for your comment!

  • Malaikia on 03rd May 2010:

    Johan, thanks for the compliment about my name smile

    I used the word complex in relation to the comment about Kenyans finding this normal. In fact you did already say it in your post, the reason it seems “accepted as normal”. Its in the basic facts - “The fundamental breakdown and corruption of local families and communities results in an acceptance of sexual exploitation of children.”

    The writer of the article I spoke about was not from Malindi. He was from another part of Kenya. He was equally shocked to find that level of local acceptance of married couples taking in lovers for money. So I understand where you are coming from.

    There are many excellent reports tracing the evolution of the problem. But what I guess we would all like to see is more action. from Government and the tourism industry.

    And yes, its a good thing to have these kinds of discussions.

  • Johan Knols on 03rd May 2010:

    Hello Malaika,

    It seems we are fortunately on the same wavelenght regarding this matter. I would like to briefly come back to a remark in your first comment, where you stated: ‘that western men think you are easy game’.
    The first time I was in Nairobi in 1989 I visited the rather notorious ‘modern green bar’ in the city center. After I entered and sat down, I had 4 very young ladies crawling onto my lap, despite the fact that my girlfriend sat next to me. This took no longer than 5 minutes. Maybe not so strange that western men get an idea of African ladies being easy?

  • Malaika on 04th May 2010:

    Maybe because you were in a “notorious” bar? grin I am not :( But to be fair, its not all western men I have met. And I haven’t met that many so I shouldn’t be judging all western men by that small sample size.

  • Johan Knols on 04th May 2010:


    That was surely one of the reasons. But what is interesting is the fact that it shows how quickly we form an opinion that might -in a general light- be completely wrong. It does however create a supply and demand in a more narrow light.
    Thanks again for commenting.

  • Johan Knols on 10th June 2010:

    Slowly it seems that the problem of child sex abuse in the tourism industry is being taken seriously. South Africa yesterday signed the an important ‘Code of Conduct’. See update in the article.

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