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Child sex predators using internet to get new victims in Kenya

Grace Kirui, Terre des Hommes East Africa - Programme Development Manager

Online child sex exploitation of children is following the path of traditional offline hotspots, a report has stated.

 The document titled The Dark Side of the Internet for Children prepared by Terre des Hommes, a Dutch children’s rights organization states that the practice is prevalent in the coastal strip where sex tourism has a strong presence.

Grace Kirui, the organization’s regional programme development manager said in an interview with Standard Digital on Thursday that a combination of factors have contributed to the vice finding root in the coast and other urban areas.

“The hotspots that we have come across are layered on areas where the exploitation has already been happening. There is prevalence of child sex tourism happening in those areas,” Kirui said.

She adds that these areas that have been characterized by tolerance to the practice along with the reality of poverty which has led to the trend migrating from offline to the digital space.

This, she adds, has especially been rampant with the penetration of the internet and availability of smartphones.

Kirui further attributed the growing challenge to unsupervised access to the internet by minors giving rise to online grooming, where predators use false identities to lure the minors into the world of online sex exploitation.

“Once the (online) relationship is established, some asked to meet the child, what we call offline. So they meet the child offline and then, unfortunately these are still predators, they abuse the child,” Kirui said.

Kirui expressed confidence in the Computer and Cybercrimes Bill 2017 currently before the National Assembly for debate which outlaws child pornography and stipulates a fine of Sh20 million or a jail term of up to 25 years.

She said that although the law makes a caveat for material that would otherwise be deemed as child pornography being used for medical, research, and law enforcement purposes, it is unlikely to be exploited to further the vice.

She however called upon all stakeholders vital to the success of ending online child sex exploitation, to make every effort in increasing capacities that would facilitate punitive measures against perpetrators.

“When it comes to capacity, this is also an emerging phenomenon. What is familiar to most is the offline sexual exploitation. Capacities really need to be improved,” Kirui said.