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Report: How your child could be prone to online Sexual exploitation

By Josphat Thiong'o | Published Wed, April 11th 2018 at 00:00, Updated April 10th 2018 at 22:46 GMT +3
A survey by a Dutch child rights organisation indicates that Kenyan children are actively sharing nude photos with strangers online. [Photo: Courtesy]

A rights organisation says children are performing sexual acts in front of webcams on mobile phones and in cyber cafés for online 'clients'.

Do you occasionally leave your phone with your children or allow your underage siblings unsupervised internet access on the laptop, tablet or cyber café?

If yes, you just might be exposing them to online sexual exploitation. 

A survey by a Dutch child rights organisation indicates that Kenyan children are actively sharing nude photos with strangers online.

Worse still, there is evidence to suggest that children are becoming increasingly involved in live streaming of sexual acts from private residences and cyber cafés.

Terres des Hommes Netherlands, which has worked in the country since 1968, found that online child sexual exploitation was a real threat in Kenya.

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One form of abuse is live performance by children of sexual acts in front of a webcam or mobile phone camera. This is instantaneously transmitted to online adult viewers.

Other forms include the distribution of child pornography and online sexual grooming in which sex predators prepare their victims for eventual exploitation.

According to the survey conducted in February, there are an estimated 750,000 online individuals looking to connect with children at any moment.

The report, which will be launched in Nairobi tomorrow, cites accounts from some of those interviewed and who freely acknowledged the practice.

Live shows

"There is evidence that a cyber cafe in Kwale town was streaming live shows of children (all boys) performing sexual acts via a webcam to a remote audience in return for payment," states the report quoting a young man from Mtwapa in Mombasa County.

The report indicates that both boys and girls are affected.

"Whereas girls used to be the ones most exploited, currently young boys are becoming increasingly involved. In Mtwapa, young boys are the hot stuff," a young woman working in community child protection in Mombasa told the rights group.

Yet another young woman working in community child protection in Mombasa confessed her aunt used to lure young girls to perform sexual acts for commercial purposes.

"My aunt used to recruit young girls to perform live online sex acts in front of a webcam for overseas ‘clients’. Women brought their daughters over and over again until eventually these girls met the men in real life," she revealed.

In the report, Terres des Hommes Netherlands Country Manager Angela Nyamu reveals that Kenyan children are actively befriending strangers online and often receive requests to share intimate photos of themselves.

“There is also evidence to suggest that children are involved in live-streaming of sexual acts, which takes place in private residences as well as through the unregulated cyber café industry,” adds the report.

Cyber cafes in Kenya offer access to public chat rooms, social media, video chatting and other file sharing software. Some also provide private back rooms where their customers, including children, can enjoy greater privacy as long as they pay.

Strengthen laws

The rights group is calling on the Government to strengthen existing laws to expressly criminalise online child sexual exploitation.

It also calls for the regularisation of usage of cyber cafés.

“There are currently no regulations or enforceable guidelines that govern the operations and consumers’ usage of services in cyber cafés,” states the report.

Last year, Parliament made progress by developing the Computer and Cyber Crimes Bill 2017, which explicitly targets child pornography, cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying.

"To limit the potential of online child sexual exploitation committed in cyber cafés and in private rooms, the Government must take steps to better regulate the operations of cyber cafes in the country," says the report.