From Asia to Africa: Women trafficked to Kenya's Bollywood-style dance bars
SEE ALSO :Hoteliers project higher occupancyPolice and anti-trafficking groups have repeatedly voiced concerns that some of these private clubs are used as a front to ensnare women and girls, some in sex slavery, with women forced to pay off loans by erotic dancing or having sex with clients. Sheela and the other women rescued from the Mombasa club told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they had not been forced to have sex with customers. Anita Nyanjong, a lawyer for human rights group Equality Now, said it was hard to get to the truth as survivors of trafficking often would not admit what had happened. “Most victims come from poor conservative families and there is shame and stigma attached to this kind of thing,” she said. “Even though victims may have been forced or duped into sex work, they may be convinced by traffickers not to speak ... told they will be arrested for prostitution if they admit it.”
SEE ALSO :Move investment in hotels out of NairobiIn Kenya, many local women and girls are promised good jobs only to be enslaved in domestic servitude or forced into prostitution - often in the sex tourism industry. Kenya is home to about 328,000 modern-day slaves - about 1 in 143 of its population - according to the Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australia-based rights group. POLICE RAIDS But in recent years police raids on mujra bars - named after a traditional Asian dance - uncovered organised human trafficking from South Asia to Kenya, a trend highlighted by the United States in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. “The raids have helped us understand the modus operandi of traffickers in Kenya who have agents overseas to recruit women for them,” an official from Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said on condition of anonymity. “They are offered jobs as cultural dancers and given around one month’s salary in advance. But when they arrive, their movements are restricted and they have to do erotic and sexually explicit dancing - and often have to have sex with clients.” Such victims enter Kenya either on a three-month tourist visa on arrival for south Asians, or on a special temporary work permit for cultural performers, according to the DCI official. Sheela and the other 11 women rescued in Mombasa said they had come to Kenya separately over the past nine months on flights through India and Ethiopia arranged by the club owner. In court testimonies the women, aged 16 to 34, said they were told to carry hand luggage only and tell immigration officials they were visiting friends or family in Kenya. The women worked every night, were given stage names, and were expected to earn about $4,000 each per month in tips. “We didn’t get the tips as they were for the boss,” said Meena, 20, who did not want to give her real name. “But the top performing girls would get bonuses of 20,000 shillings ($200), 30,000 ($300), and 50,000 ($500) if they met their targets.” The women told the court their passports were taken and they did not know the location of the club or their accommodation. Paul Adhoch, head of Trace Kenya, a charity that provided shelter to the group of 12, said the women did not identify as victims but their treatment suggested otherwise. “The way they were deceptively recruited, the under-the-radar manner in which they were brought into Kenya, restrictions on their freedoms and movements, their passports being taken - are all clear signs of human trafficking,” he said. The women were repatriated to Nepal in July. “This whole thing has been terrible,” said Sonia, 24, who did want to give her real name, the day before she left. "I should never have come - it was a mistake. All I want to do is go home. I never come to Kenya again."
Do not miss out on the latest news. Join the Standard Digital Telegram channel HERE.