Young girls in some low-income estates in Kisumu are accepting as little as Sh10 in exchange for sex, Amnesty International has reported.
Amnesty said sexual violations among the girls are rife due to poverty, culture and ignorance of the law.
In a statement on Tuesday, AIK executive director Justus Nyangaya noted that this is “robbing young girls of their dignity’.
Nyangaya added that many cases of gender-based violence, particularly sexual violation, go unreported due to stigma and ‘local negotiations’.
He said victims’ families drop cases to safeguard the family name and community reputation.
But Nyangaya noted that the ‘local solutions’ do not advance justice as crime goes unpunished and victims are forced to live with stigma for the rest of her life.
“That’s why we want all cases of gender-based violence recorded, documented, reported to relevant authorities and aggressively monitored to ensure justice is done,” he said.
“Where the victim’s family is compromised, we urge that such cases proceed through formal justice processes since the crime committed is not just against the family but also against the state.”
Amnesty has partnered with the Canadian High Commission to enable residents in low-income neighborhoods “map, record, document, report and continuously monitor cases of gender-based violence”.
Easter Achieng, a Kisumu-based gender rights crusader, spoke of cases of ‘sex for fish’ that have seen fishermen refuse to sell fish to women who denied them sex. She said many give in to obtain money to fend for their families.
Achieng said ignorance of laws that criminalise sexual offenses is the weak link in the fight against gender-based violence.
“Many perpetrators are not aware they are breaking the law since some cultures tacitly encouraged seizure of a woman for marriage, to a man who was interested in her,” Achieng said.
She said these cultures, which more or less view women as sexual objects for men’s pleasure, have continued unabated in spite of the law and changes brought on by civilisation.
In February 2014, the BBC quoted a Kisumu resident as saying that the HIV infection rate in the area was almost 15 per cent, double the national average at the time, and it was largely down to “sex for fish”.
But amid the practice, some traders had joined a self-empowerment programme for the direct management of their trade in fish.
It is a project run by a local charity called Vired, supported by the US Peace Corps, and it is changing the lives of the women involved, the BBC said.
“Sex for fish is very dangerous because every day we realise that people are dying from HIV and Aids,” said Dan Abuto from the charity.
“We need to ignite these women, to empower them so they can take charge of their destiny. We are very proud because it’s having a positive impact.”