The harsh economic situation in the country is steadily pushing many Kenyans into illicit businesses.
Some are streaming overseas where they end up in the brutal hands of the Arabs. Some are being deceived by the day by unscrupulous persons with fake promises of jobs overseas.
Esther (not her real name) was such a victim. In 2001, she was lured into prostitution in Qatari. It all started with a spurious promise of a job and then the “come and travel” frenzy and she fell for it all.
Before she left for the Western country, she was a hairdresser residing in Kayole. But one day one of her male acquaintances, Isaac (not his real name), showed up and urged her to come out of poverty by travelling with him to a land of greener pastures, and she agreed. At that time she was 20 years old.
“When Isaac came to Kenya and realised that things were difficult for me and my family and that my business was not moving well, he deceitfully promised to help me.
Promised a job
“At that time, there was abject poverty in our family. I grew up not knowing who my father was, he died while I was still an infant.
“Isaac promised to get me a rosy job, as my hairdressing job was no longer flourishing. I thought it could thrive better there. I thought about the prospects of assisting my mother; based on his promises, I gave in. Naturally, I became excited at the opportunity of travelling and getting a paying job overseas.
“When we arrived in Qatari, the story changed,” she recalled in a stirring testimony. “Isaac did the unthinkable. To my surprise, he sold me to a woman for the sum of Ksh 250,000.
It was at that point that the woman told me that I would make money for her through prostitution. She threatened and forced me into it.
“I could not speak the language, and there was no one I could run to; I had no dime to return to Kenya either. That was how I was forced into prostitution.
“Qatari was a strange city. I hadn’t been there before neither did I know anyone there. Initially, I couldn’t do what they asked me to do; I bluntly refused the proposal but the woman pressured me into doing so.
Then, as time went on, I succumbed to her aggression.” From that point, Esther plunged headlong into the world of prostitution.
“When I started the job, I had many customers. One of them was my present husband. He loved me so much. I could see how he was coming closer and closer to me. He was taking a great interest in me; he wanted to help me out of the business.
Gradually, he began to take a deeper interest in me. Both of us began to develop an intimate relationship. I was surprised that he began to do everything possible to get me out of the trade and change my lifestyle. But all his efforts I rebuffed. I resisted it all.” She disclosed that, at some point, she became pregnant for him because they were both in love.
Turn of events
Tracing her road out of the illicit trade, Esther said: “One day, I fought the woman that was in charge of me.
When she could not continue with me she paid for my return to Kenya. From then I began to live on my own.
“But at some point, the business began to go bad; the number of my customers began to dwindle. Things gradually became bad because money was no longer forthcoming like before.
“We were worried by the change in fortunes we had begun to experience. So, it became pertinent that I devised another line of trade. That was how I thought of bringing girls from Kenya to prostitute for me.
“As part of the things I needed to do to boost what I was going to do, one day, my roommate suggested that we visit a herbalist and I concurred. When we met the man, he gave me some concussion, which would assist me to get customers and to pass across the borders whenever I was travelling with the girls.Unfortunately, I misused the concussion. In the course of that, I got paralyzed.
She said that, prior to the health challenge, which almost claimed her life, she was not in any way ready to quit the flesh trade: “Among the women she sold off were four girls, all students of various schools, between the ages 15 and 20. The woman among them happened to be my uncle’s wife. I also deceived them by telling them that I was taking them to Qatari where they would be handed juicy jobs.”
While she was on one of her trips, Esther says she had a rough patch with officials of the Immigration department and she was eventually arrested.
“I was arrested at the anti-human trafficking officials. They took me to prison whre I was detained for one month. I was made to appear on television; I was disgraced.
“The disgrace struck anger in me. Because of that, I vowed that, once I was free, I would go back to prostitution in a big way,” she said.
Once she was released, Esther returned to Kayole. She recalled that when she was active in trafficking women, whenever they were leaving the country, officials never even winked at them, but when they were returning to Kenya, they were always all over her. Then at some point, she said, “I wanted to leave the trade and become a better person.”
According to her, in all the years, her mother never knew she was into prostitution much less being engaged in human trafficking, because if she heard of it, she would have died:
“My mother was always cursing girls who she heard went into prostitution outside the country. She always said that, if they brought back the proceeds, God would judge them. So, with that fear, I never sent any money to her mother all through the days I was into prostitution and human trafficking.
“Actually I was doing it, but I was not happy because my mother never partook of the money I made. I spent the money on myself: patronizing clubs and herbalists and buying dresses. It was like a spell cast on me; I never bothered to care for my mother.”
Esther said she made a minimum of Ksh300,000 from each girl she trafficked. But after she repented, she made spirited efforts to return them all to Kenya. She said her pastor told her that the act was sinful and requested her to return the women back home.
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