Mombasa, KENYA – After five months of evading arrest, local police working with the Department of Children Services on the Kenyan coast recently secured the arrest of a man for sexually abusing and exploiting Saida* after luring her into a villa with a promise of assisting her with school fees.
He has been charged under the Sexual Offences Act, and faces up to 15 years in prison, if convicted. This is the first case of Child Sex Trafficking that International Justice Mission (IJM) has engaged in under its new project on the Kenyan coast, which aims to increase reporting of Child Sex Trafficking cases and strengthen the effectiveness of the justice system in investigating and prosecuting Child Sex Trafficking perpetrators.
Investigations revealed that the man promised to give a bursary (a grant that the Kenyan government offers to families in poverty) to the girl’s mother who then arranged for Saida to be taken to meet him in one of the luxurious hotels in the area. Like so many Child Sex Trafficking perpetrators, the act of promising financial provision was the driving force of his exploitation of Saida.
Equally troubling: Saida’s mother was fully aware that her daughter would have to have sex with this man and facilitated the process of getting Saida to the villa.
Thinking that she was meeting someone interested in paying for her education, Saida brought her school documents to meet the man who then abused her sexually.
Saida returned home crying and reported what happened to her family. Her mother responded violently – angry at her daughter for complaining about being exploited for financial gain. A neighbour who learned of what had happened to Saida accompanied her to a Community Justice Centre where she informed Human Right Defenders (HRDs) of what had happened to her. The HRDs then accompanied Saida to the police station where she courageously reported the abuse.
When Saida’s mother learnt that the case had been reported to the police, she chased Saida away. Saida then sought refuge with a relative.
The suspect, who members of the community described as untouchable due to his deep pockets, political connections and influence, remained free for months after Saida reported the abuse to the police. The Justice Centre would follow-up on her case but the police did not take any action.
To ensure victims like Saida are able to safely and successfully report cases to the police, IJM is building the capacity of community stakeholders to address challenges in Child Sex Trafficking case referral and reporting. With support from IJM in February, the Justice Centre was able to finally prompt police to take action in Saida’s case.
On 22 March 2021 the suspect was arrested, and the following day he was charged. This arrest signifies the growing momentum in the fight against Child Sex Trafficking, which is rampant in the region.
The Justice Centre’s persistence in prompting police action more than once demonstrates the crucial role of grass roots actors in supporting victims in pursuing justice at the critical stage of referral to law enforcement. Likewise, the response of the police station responsible for the arrest is an important example for police throughout the region. In the near future, IJM will begin rolling out efforts to train and mentor several police stations in Child Sex Trafficking hotspots along the coast, as well as the Directorate of Criminal Investigation’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit in Mombasa. These upcoming efforts will be crucial for strengthening Child Sex Trafficking investigations and arrests, including trauma informed engagement with victims like Saida.
On the day of the arrest in March, Saida was sitting for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations. As soon as she finished her final examination, officials from the Department of Children Services and the community Justice Centre placed her at a shelter where she is receiving care. Going forward, IJM will ensure Saida receives counselling to help her on her journey of healing, as well as the legal support victims like her need to be able to navigate the prosecution of her abuser. IJM will also support the public prosecutor, one of several throughout the region who will benefit from IJM’s effort to strengthen the capacity of prosecutors in pursuing convictions against Child Sex Trafficking perpetrators.
While Saida awaits justice through the prosecution of her perpetrator, his arrest and detention sends an important message of accountability to other criminals engaging as customers and facilitators of Child Sex Trafficking.
This article was funded in part by a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.
Stock image used.
You might also be interested in…
“Rescue of 4 women helps arrest trafficker on “most wanted” list”
HYDERABAD, India – In late April, IJM’s casework partner Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) assisted authorities in Telangana state to break up a major trafficking ring and rescue four young women who had been forced into domestic servitude. The four survivors—more than one of whom was just a teenager—had been lured from impoverished communities in
“Five Manila teens rescued from online sexual exploitation”
Manila, THE PHILIPPINES – Authorities have rescued four minors and a young adult and arrested two suspects in two separate operations against online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) in Metro Manila. One of the operations was linked to an Australian online sex offender and conducted with assistance from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and IJM.
“14 children rescued in the Philippines after AFP arrests Australian paedophile”
CAMARINES SUR, THE PHILIPPINES – On 7 May 2021, police rescued 14 children, including a 3-month old infant, from online sexual exploitation. The operation was the result of a referral from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), which had arrested a 69-year-old Australian offender in March this year. Thanks to international collaboration through the Philippine Internet
“Thai Boat Owner Arrested, Facing Human Trafficking Charges”
BANGKOK, THAILAND—Another player in a cross-border trafficking ring can no longer exploit vulnerable workers in Thailand, as law enforcement arrested a Thai boat owner accused of trafficking a Cambodian fisherman and subjecting him to forced labour conditions on his vessel. The accused boat owner worked closely with Vanna, a Thailand-based broker who routinely sold Cambodian