Sex for water. (IBM)

Sex for water: How Kenyan girls are being forced to have sex in exchange for water

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Sex for water

Young girls are being forced to have sex with water vendors in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Reuben. Like many parts of Africa, informal settlements in Kenya experience water shortage forcing residents from these areas to buy water from water vendors.

A lobby has now raised alarm about unscrupulous water vendors who are exploiting young girls in Kibera and Kwa Reuben in order to give them water.

Vincent Ouma, the head of programs at The Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET), says that sex for water has been going on for a long time now but in secret.

“We have been talking about this for quite some time but when you talk about this to people, especially big people in the water sector, they all deny it. They do not believe that anybody is being exploited to get water,” he said.

Nobody wants to believe its true

A water ATM in Nairobi.

Ouma was speaking at the launch of a booklet narrating experiences of women and girls who are victims of these water cartels on Thursday at the Shifteye Studios in Nairobi.

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Mary* (not her real name), a 14-year old girl, narrated in the booklet how she came across the vice in her Kibera area.

“There was a time we had a serious water shortage and people had to wake up early and go queue to fetch water. My friend kept insisting she had a way to get water quickly but never told me how until I saw her come out of the vendor’s house with the water keys,” she said.

Mary said her friend fell pregnant and now stays with the vendor.

A water vendor in Nairobi with his cart. (Research Gate)

Another young adolescent girl by the name Jane*, 15, was also offered water for free by a vendor and she fetched water a few times before the vendor asked to be paid back in form of sex.

“I refused and it was then that the vendor became furious with me and even threatened me several times,” she said.

Despite this practice being rampant Ouma says that nobody in the ministry of water was buying the story that such things were happening in Kenya, much less Nairobi terming it a shameful thing.

“This is not just something we woke up and found out. It took us over two years to collect these women and girls’ stories.” said Ouma.

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