Kenyan children are performing sexual acts in front of webcams on mobile phones and in cyber cafes for paying clients spread all over the world. Terre des Hommes Netherlands has established the existence of Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE) in the country. The research "The Dark Side of Internet for Children - Online Child Sexual Exploitation in Kenya" was officially launched by Dr. Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of the Kenya Film Classification Board. All stakeholders at the launch made a passionate plea for urgent and immediate action to prevent children becoming victims and to curb the rapid growth of OCSE in Kenya.
“The Dark side of the Internet for Children” report indicates that there is strong evidence that OCSE is occurring in Kenya through various forms. The research also confirms that there are circumstances which favour the growth and expansion of OCSE. According to Angela Nyamu, Country Manager Kenya for Terre des Hommes Netherlands, “Increased mobile phone penetration and internet access have given rise to a set of conditions that have made children more vulnerable to OCSE. High levels of poverty continue to push children into transactional sexual services as a means of survival and to live up to expectations to contribute towards household income.”
Platforms and channels such as chat rooms, dating websites, social media such as Facebook and Whatsapp, mobile phones with internet access and peer to peer networks allow adults to more easily contact and solicit boys and girls, especially the most vulnerable. According to the FBI there are a total of 750,000 individuals looking to connect with children across the globe for sexual purposes online at any moment.
The study also revealed that the absence of a clear and enforceable regulatory framework governing cybercafé operators has also led to the rise of OCSE. Some cybercafes in Kenya provide private back rooms where their customers can enjoy greater privacy. These private back rooms are not restricted and anyone, including children, can enter as long as they could afford to pay.
Says Angela Nyamu: “Now is the time for Government, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to come together and work proactively against OCSE, so that their actions can be preventative rather than reactive. Terre des Hommes Netherlands focuses on stopping child exploitation, and is ready to work with these agencies to tackle this issue before it becomes too late.”