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Gays render twilight girls jobless

27 June 2013, 11:52 Joseph Mukubwa

They have been earning a living on the streets and in a good day or night, they would go home with even KES 10 000 but the lives of twilight girls in Nanyuki is changing and they might soon be out of the streets.

Over 1 000 Nanyuki Commercial Sex workers in Laikipia County are faced with many challenges in their business commonly known as ‘Biashara ya Raha' (business of happiness) including the increasing numbers of gays who have mushroomed in the town overtaking their illegal business.

Most of the girls are now confined at their brothels mostly at the sprawling Majengo or Likii areas where sex trade, which is the oldest businesses in the world, is the order of the day.

brothel, wooden house

Jane Muthoni (not her real name) who has been on the streets for the last eight years laments that the business has been very poor for the last two years and many are the times her two children go to school without food due to the many challenges the trade is facing.

It is illegal to practice prostitution with members of the opposite sex in Kenya, and it is also illegal to practice gay or lesbianism which involves people of the same sex.

In Nanyuki town, the illegal business of prostitution which has been the order of the day has been overtaken by yet another illegal business of gays.

Several twilight girls interviewed by the media admitted that their business is very much threatened since men have taken over their jobs mostly from the British army commonly known as Johnnies who mostly trains in the area, and other tourists.

“They do their work very secretively but we know them well. They have increased at an alarming rate here in town. In fact most of them grab our customers in full glare of our eyes. They also incite them not to pay us much in order for them to benefit,” says Muthoni.

Men Having Sex with Men Association

31-year-old Muthoni says that the gays have even formed an association called 'Men Having Sex with Men Association' and they normally meet at local NGOs which helps them with drugs, counseling and protective devices like condoms.

Muthoni also decries poor economy in the recent past since Johnnies rarely visit town after they were put under strict rules.

The prostitutes are being driven out of business by more strict night-out rules that have been imposed on British soldiers deployed in the country.

British officers were the main source of income for prostitutes in the town of Nanyuki since they would pay up to KES 5 000 per night to a sex worker.

"They pay us well unlike locals who pay as little as KES 200. Local men also take a long time but the British take only a few seconds, so you can go and find another customer," says another twilight girl.

Nanyuki which is commonly known as ‘the end of the railway line’ hosts a British army base used to train troops before deployment in Afghanistan.

The girls regret that they re being forced out of the streets to go for other casual jobs or start income generating projects after British authorities at the Nanyuki base clamped down on soldiers' downtime few months ago, allowing them out of the base only under strict surveillance.

However,Wairimu said the change is due to a series of incidents involving British troops in the city calling for authorities to relax the restrictions.

In August last year, two UK soldiers were accused of being involved in the killing of a prostitute whose body was found in a septic tank at a hotel in town a couple of months after she disappeared.

Agnes Wanjiru, 21, was reportedly last seen entertaining the two Britons in a bar.

A few months earlier, more than 200 soldiers were involved in a drunken brawl at the local Sportsman's Arms bar.

50-year-old Joyce Njoki (not her real name) who is a mother of three and has since opted out of the game laments that she was driven out of the streets by the young girls who are as young as 16 years old since they are more marketable than her.

“They call those youngsters ‘fresh meat’ so I decided to remain at our brothels in Majengo slums or Likii where you can easily trade with old men who are brewing Chang’aa or any other illicit brews,” says Njoki.

Njoki who started the business when she was 17 years old has been able to educate her children with one boy having graduated recently at Nairobi University with a Bachelors Degree in BSc.

“That time we would go home with KES 10 000 per night. It was very good money. Those who saved live a better life today. I invested in educating my children. They might help me during the future years. Today you cannot get such money here in Nanyuki. In fact, many others go even out of this county in search of greener pastures,” she says.

Others interviewed says despite the introduction of protective devices like condoms, diseases are still rampant like HIV/Aids and other sexually diseases which cannot be ignored.

Other challenges include police harassment although they say once arrested, they buy their freedom back in kind.

They have since formed an organizing dubbed 'Laipikia Peer Educators (LAPEED)' where they have received training by APhia Plus and Usaid groups on HIV/Aids, Alcohol and drugs abuse, gender based violence and family planning among others.

They now want the County government to recognize them and fund their group so that they can start income generating projects.

'We are ready to even pay taxes'

“We want this government to recognize our business and even give us licenses. We are ready to even pay taxes. This is a job like any other. We want to be funded like any other youth group,” says one of the officials of the group.

The sex workers say they have witnessed many of their colleagues dying in the ‘line of duty’ and so it was time they looked for other safer jobs.

Laikipia County Health Director Ronald Mogol said the County government is committed in offering health care to all people including the commercial sex workers who are at risk of being infected with many diseases at 'work'.

He said they will prioritize in giving medicare to such marginalized groups who also included pastoralists.

Health Rights Advocacy Forum (Heraf) executive director Edward Miano said such marginalized groups should be fully involved in the health matters of the County government.

“We need strategies to know how to address their needs and put up policies and health services to benefit them,” he added.

Miano adds that the County government should give special care to the sex workers since it is a reality in even town that they exist.

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