When her father started building a new house in their homestead in Kilifi, Esha* (not her real name) did not know she was the “commodity” to be exchanged for the house.
Her father had placed his dowry demand even before Esha met her “husband to be”.
Her wide smile slowly turns to a sad face filled with bitterness, as she recalls how her enforced marriage to a 65-year-old Westerner shuttered her dreams of salvaging her family from poverty.
She was just 14 years old when her father introduced her to a white man. The white man would visit Esha’s home, where she lived with her father and grandmother.
Her mother left years ago to work in the Gulf, never to be heard from again.
“I had just been sent home from school over a fee balance and my father said he does not have any money. Two months later, I was still at home,” she said.
Esha narrated how her father informed her that the mzungu friend he had been bringing to their home for weeks was to be her husband.
“Even before I could completely absorb what was going on, we got married in accordance to Islamic rites,” she said.
Amid tears, Esha said: “Yule mzungu alinivunja ubikra. Ilikuwa uchungu na nilipokuwa napiga nduru aniwache aliniambia amenilipia kwa babangu, kwa hivyo hakuna mahali ningeweza kuenda ama kufanya.”
Which loosely translates to: “That man broke my virginity. It was too painful and when I screamed for him to let me go, he said he had paid for me so there was nothing I could do.”
As if that was not cruel enough, the “husband” would go on to sodomise her, as well as use her for other unnatural sex acts.
“I do not understand why my own father gave me away to an old man. If he did not have money to take me to school, he should have told me so,” Esha said.
Luckily for Esha, she was later rescued by a child rights activist, and is currently doing designing and garment making. She said cases of young girls being turned to sex objects are common in Kilifi, and especially Mtwapa, Malindi and Kikambala.
Her rescue was prompted by her grandmother, whom she had been telling of her misery as her father turned a blind eye to it.
“I was lucky to have escaped the wrath after months of torture. But I know of friends who were married and taken to Europe and are now sex slaves there,” she said.
Esha’s ordeal begs the question: How many girls fall prey to sex pests roaming the streets of Mtwapa?
Last week, a German and Ukrainian were charged with stripping a girl they met on a dating site before taking photos and videos of her.
The German, Zerbin Waldemar, and Ukrainian, Wectabe Shestavets, were accused of unlawfully compelling a girl (YM) by forcibly undressing her before taking nude photos and videos of her.
The duo denied the charges and were released on Sh100,000 bond. According to the police report, the girl met Waldemar on Tinder, where they exchanged contacts and planned for a date at their Kenya Medical Association apartment in Mtwapa.
After a fun-filled day with Waldemar at the swimming area, and later meeting Wectabe and having some drinks and eating with them, the two foreigners declined to let her go without sex.
“When I wanted to leave, the two whites told me I could not go without giving them sex, yet I had eaten their food and drunk their alcohol,” she said.
That’s when they resorted to taking her photos and videos in the nude. Some of the videos from their phones show explicit videos of different women.
Later that week, Turkish investor Osman Elsek was charged with nine counts, including promoting child prostitution and defilement between February and October last year.
He was also accused of compelling two girls (RB and BW), both aged 15, to massage his private parts against their will. The businessman was also accused of touching the girls inappropriately.
Osman was also accused of promoting child prostitution by taking advantage of the influence he had on the three girls to defile them.
The Turk faced two additional counts on a fourth girl (JAO). He allegedly unlawfully compelled the girl, 17, to massage his privates and further indecently touched her.
Osman was further accused of using his influence on the girl to procure her for the indecent acts. The investor denied all the charges and was released on Sh5 million bond.
According to reports, birth certificates belonging to the girls were recovered from Osman’s house. However, the police were unraveling how the certificates contained Osman as their surnames, and if due process was followed in adopting the girls.
Grace Odembo of Okoa Sasa, an organisation that rescues and rehabilitates girls encroached in child prostitution, said girls are trafficked from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and the DRC for the “business”. Those from Ethiopia and Somalia are the main attraction in strip clubs in Mtwapa.
“Sex tourism is currently affecting both girls and boys. Most white men now prefer boys to girls,” she said.
The children’s rights protector said some families have failed their children by “selling” them to tourists in exchange for money and other goodies.
The hunger to get rich has also led girls to “hawk” themselves to white men, who have pitched tent in Mtwapa, which has also been described as Sodom and Gomorrah.
The societal decay has allowed older women who have worked as commercial sex workers to introduce their young daughters into the business without being questioned by anyone.
“As older sex workers lose their market value, they introduce their daughters, some even 10 years old, to sleep with their elderly clients. Who will protect these children if their guardians are this cruel?” Odembo said.
Foreigners also use pimps, who bring them girls and boys for their sexual exploitation. These children are lured from their families with promises of money in return.
Social media also contributes to the widespread of the crime, and as long as the Internet exists, children will remain vulnerable.
Thousands of women married to whites testify to how they met the spouses on dating sites. This can, however, go south if the man’s aim is to sexually abuse the woman.