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Underage and Legally Underprotected

A study on the impact of criminalisation of prostitution on violence prevention and response for sexually exploited adolescents who sell sex in Kenya.

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In fulfilling national and international obligations towards advancing the rights of children, governments have an obligation to take all necessary legal and policy measures to protect all children from neglect, abuse and violence. This requires an effective and functioning child protection mechanism that prioritizes the needs of most vulnerable children. The Government of Kenya and local NGOs have been working to stop commercial sexual exploitation of children for many years. However, activities resulting in commercial sexual exploitation of children still exist and have been increasing over the years. The ways in which children become victims of commercial sexual exploitation has changed over the years making it harder to identify and respond to. In most cases sexually exploited children who sell sex often don’t benefit fully from child protection laws. Criminalization of their behaviour makes them less protected and more vulnerable leaving them even more exposed to violence and penalization.


Despite their vulnerability, research targeting this population is limited due to the sensitivity of this issue; making it difficult to make specific legal and policy changes that are responsive to their circumstances. KESWA sought to contribute to the existing body of evidence to inform realistic solutions for sexually exploited adolescents who sell sex through evidence based research. This study sought to document the challenges presented by the legal environment on mechanisms to address violence against sexually exploited adolescents who sell sex in Kenya. The focus of the study was specific to mechanisms health, safety and access to justice mechanisms. The study was successfully implemented in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Busia and Nakuru with individual interviews administered to 212 respondents. Sampling of the respondents relied on peer-identification and selfselection regarding age and involvement in selling sex. In depth interviews were also done with 8 children, 5 focus groups undertaken, and 11 key informants interviewed. The study ensured strict compliance with regulatory requirements and ethical standards in research involving vulnerable children.

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