Sweet money, bitter source

Published 12, Oct, 2017
Author // Kimutai Kemboi,

Kenya's Kimutai Kemboi interviews "Janet", a sex worker based in River Road, Nairobi.

Sweet money, bitter source

"Mr. Kimboi or whoever you call yourself, I demand some respect. I have human dignity as you do and deserve to be treated with decency. I do what I do because I am passionate of, this is my source of livelihood as well as my profession. And by the way you need to apologize if you are still interested in getting what you came for!" Janet fumed!

I had no option but to be submissive and apologize though I also had to correct her: I am not Kimboi but Kemboi. She felt offended when I innocently referred to her 'profession', as she called it, as prostitution. I never knew this would offend her.

Anyway she was not too rigid to accept my apology but I had to get her a glass of fresh juice to moisten her throat and enhance the flow of the story.

*******

We had met a week earlier but she could was not willing to talk to me because it was a peak hour for her and I didn't seem to be her client. We arranged to meet some other time during an off peak hour. I tried asking for her phone number but she refused and told me she only gives it to her prospective clients. I am sure she must have doubted me and thought I was spying or something. She later gave me directions on where to locate her and the time she would be willing to talk to me.

"I have been a sex worker for close to a decade now and I am proud of what I do. Despite some few challenges here and there, my job is paying. I never lack something to settle my bills and feed my family, I am a mother, you know! This job is not everybody's cup of coffee, it needs perseverance and tolerance for one to cope up and be passionate. I started sex work at a tender age of 15 just after clearing my primary school education. I was compelled to do so by the turbulent background I was from." Janet explained.

"I was introduced by a friend who used to get clients for me, since I was unable to 'hunt' on my own. I had to pay her a small percentage of what I was offered. Initially, the experience was such a hell and I never knew what I would have to cope with but after a while I adopted the new lifestyle. It took me a couple of months before becoming independent and getting my own clients with no one else involved anymore. I have been able to attend to my needs without lacking for even a single day." Janet added.

"The main challenge is that people are forgetting that we are human beings and therefore have rights as provided for in the constitution under Bill of Rights."

"This is a business like any other business and I don't regret being a sex worker, neither do I think of stopping soon. We do have seasons, high and low; holidays, month's end and weekends are our high seasons. Sometimes I get up to over 20k at a go, especially when my clients take me for a holiday or weekend to some place outside Nairobi. On a normal day (low season) I make like 30k; it has really transformed my life.

"This is the most lucrative and paying job I have ever heard of and on top of it, no papers nor experience is needed. Your ability to satisfy your client is what we value." Janet said with a smile on her face.

"Despite all these gains, we have a number of challenges here and there. The main challenge is that people are forgetting that we are human beings and therefore have rights as provided for in the constitution under Bill of Rights. I might not be that learned but I have never seen a clause that illegalizes sex work. We are having issues with the local authorities such as county Askaris and police who arrests as they wish. I have been arrested on several occasions and even arraigned in court. Surprisingly, at no occasion have I been charged for being a sex worker but things usually take a twist and then it turns out to be a 'drunk and disturbance case'. Occasionally, we are forced to secure our freedom by dipping into our pockets (5-15$) or offer sex to some 'hungry' officers. On other occasions, we are also compelled to 'pay' a fee of over $50 a month to some senior officials so that we don't get harassed whenever we are arrested or are deliberately left to 'trade' freely," she complained.

"No one has ever come out to champion for our rights apart from a few activists and organizations though their efforts do not sufficiently address such issues. We would wish that legislation is passed to legalize sex work and that we be accorded due respect to freely carry out our work without harassment or fear of intimidation. A designated place (must be decent) also needs to be set aside as our 'station' so that we will not be disturbing the few people who feel allergic to what we do. This station can also have a clinic where we will be getting medical attention and access to contraceptives since we are at risk of getting infections and pregnancy. It will be a safe, convenient and friendly place for us.

Remember, we are at constant risks of getting infected with STIs and,worse, HIV. Such a facility can be a convenient place we can always run to for help especially in instances where a condom breaks or have been offered a better pay, which we cannot resist, for unprotected,"Janet pleaded!

"Janet" (not her real name) is a sex worker based in River Road Nairobi. I was interviewing her recently and she gave the responses which I recorded directly as they came from her, though I was forced to censor some bits.

About the Author

Kimutai Kemboi,

Kimutai Kemboi,

"I am Kimutai Kemboi, turning 26 on 9th of April 2017. Currently I am pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science at Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. 

"I’m HIV positive and under medication but doing well health wise since I have accepted to live positively, adhere to medication and practice a healthy lifestyle so that HIV does not overwhelm me. Besides my studies, I work as a volunteer to create HIV awareness and sensitivity in the community, both face to face and through social media platforms, especially Facebook.

"I opted to do this awareness-raising because I want to have an HIV-free society and save my generation from perishing."