Jeremy Clarke, Reuters, November 25, 2007
They are on their first holiday to Kenya, a country they say is “just full of big young boys who like us older girls.”
Hard figures are difficult to come by, but local people on the coast estimate that as many as one in five single women visiting from rich countries are in search of sex.
Allie and Bethan—who both declined to give their full names—said they planned to spend a whole month touring Kenya’s palm-fringed beaches. They would do well to avoid the country’s tourism officials.
Also, the health risks are stark in a country with an AIDS prevalence of 6.9 percent. Although condom use can only be guessed at, Julia Davidson, an academic at Nottingham University who writes on sex tourism, said that in the course of her research she had met women who shunned condoms—finding them too “businesslike” for their exotic fantasies.
“We both get something we want—where’s the negative?” Allie asked in a bar later, nursing a strong, golden cocktail.
She was still wearing her bikini top, having just pulled on a pair of jeans and a necklace of traditional African beads.
Bethan sipped the same local drink: a powerful mix of honey, fresh limes and vodka known locally as “Dawa,” or “medicine.”
She kept one eye on her date—a 20-year-old playing pool, a red bandana tying back dreadlocks and new-looking sports shoes on his feet.
Grieves-Cook [Jake Grieves-Cook, chairman of the Kenya Tourist Board] and many hotel managers say they are doing all they can to discourage the practice of older women picking up local boys, arguing it is far from the type of tourism they want to encourage in the east African nation.
These same beaches have long been notorious for attracting another type of sex tourists—those who abuse children.
As many as 15,000 girls in four coastal districts—about a third of all 12-18 year-olds girls there—are involved in casual sex for cash, a joint study by Kenya’s government and U.N. children’s charity UNICEF reported late last year.
Up to 3,000 more girls and boys are in full-time sex work, it said, some paid for the “most horrific and abnormal acts.”
“PREYING ON POVERTY?”
Emerging alongside this black market trade—and obvious in the bars and on the sand once the sun goes down—are thousands of elderly white women hoping for romantic, and legal, encounters with much younger Kenyan men.
“Old white guys have always come for the younger girls and boys, preying on their poverty. . . . But these old women followed . . . they never push the legal age limits, they seem happy just doing what is sneered at in their countries.”
Experts say some thrive on the social status and financial power that comes from taking much poorer, younger lovers.
“This is what is sold to tourists by tourism companies—a kind of return to a colonial past, where white women are served, serviced, and pampered by black minions,” said Nottinghan University’s Davidson.
“LIVE LIKE THE RICH”
Many of the visitors are on the lookout for men like Joseph.
Flashing a dazzling smile and built like an Olympic basketball star, the 22-year-old said he has slept with more than 100 white women, most of them 30 years his senior.
“When I go into the clubs, those are the only women I look for now,” he told Reuters. “I get to live like the rich mzungus (white people) who come here from rich countries, staying in the best hotels and just having my fun.”