Undeniably Kisii town has changed drastically in the last few years thanks to its vibrant economy. Once being a conservative town where you would literary count people on the town’s streets from 9pm onwards, it has changed to become very vibrant especially at night. But like all growing urban areas this also comes with its fair share of necessary ‘evil’. Let’s call it evil for lack of a better term to use. To understand the emergence of this illegal commercial activity, we have to check out the factors that have contributed to this industry growing in unprecedented leaps in the last few years. First, the central business district has become more secure at night thanks to the vigilante groups that patrolled that got rid of criminal elements. The police are also doing their fair share of work to keep the streets safe at night. Second, the rise of boda boda business has given night patrons easy transport throughout the night to different suburbs outside town. This is an efficient means of transport for people who want to ‘carry work home’ .Thirdly, the ever increasing number of pubs and restaurants also coming up in the town are also fuelling the red light district of the town. Hotels and make shift food vendors operate throughout the night provide a quick fix for most night workers. Fourth, the number of Kenyan universities setting up campuses has also gone up with almost every major university setting up a campus in the town…and like most university students across Kenya, they tend to do most of their extracurricular activities at night probably another key contributor to this night business.
Unlike Nairobi’s red light Koinange Street, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly the confines of the street but according to reliable observations it is located at Kisii old bus stage and stretches downwards to the junction that connects to Kisii’s capital round about. This area is active from as early as 7pm, with skimpily dressed ladies some young enough to be in late primary or high school. The street is not for the faint hearted due to the kinds of drama that goes on their throughout the night. The inebriated ladies will shout vulgarities; engage in cat fights and such stuff. The street will also be lined up with parked trailers and trucks until the wee hours of the morning…truck drivers and turn boys, another lucrative client base for the sex workers. Around the area the lodging landlords are making a killing from the trade due to the unique way the workers ‘sell their goods’. . As the night progresses the sex workers will be fairly distributed across the town CBD with higher concentration around major night spots and drinking dens selling cheap liquor. This scenario is more compounded on weekends starting Friday through Sunday, game nights and holiday seasons.
It’s hard to come up with accurate figures on what the workers charge but will vary greatly depending on the type of service you want, the day of the week and the time of the night. Once you have agreed on the service charge, you will have to look for a lodge which most of the time you will be charged for lodging on a time basis or on a ‘shot’ basis ranging from Ksh200-400 which is usually more profitable for lodge owners than having someone to book a hotel room for a whole night for about ksh400.
Another notable thing, the town also experiences an influx of sex workers from other towns when farmers are paid tea bonuses or retired men come around town to collect their pensions. This pack that comes into town during the high season is more sophisticated and more ‘professional’, so if you don’t know your way around them you’ll find yourself in a tricky situation especially when all your hard earnings are swindled or you are drugged. Another problem is some of the workers double up as criminals as they will part with your money and belongings with amazing precision.
Due to the high number of entrants to the business, the competition has become quite stiff making some workers to charge extremely low for their services e.g. upto a low of Ksh100.The competition has also led to the rise of the more sophisticated and classy workers offering more ‘professional services’ at a higher cost of course.
From a regulatory standpoint, it seems that the towns council are not doing much to curb the growth of the industry since the last time I checked prostitution is still illegal in Kenya .Policemen are ever present on the town’s but you’ll still be amazed at how the workers don’t even flinch at the sight of the men in blue perhaps the boys are normally just taking a night stroll…One solution, is If it has to be there , Kisii town’s public health officers have to take on the job to advise the workers on the dangers of STDs and HIV/AIDS and promote the use of safe sex e.g. provide free condoms to the workers. Also,the age of the sex workers should also be looked into to rid the streets of underage workers.
But from the look of things the industry is here to stay…