Online sexual exploitation of children in Kenya ‘on the rise’

Wangui Githugo @Wango_G

A new study has revealed a sporadic rise in the cases of online sexual exploitation among children in the country. The study by Terre des Hommes Netherlands, a Dutch child rights organisation with a base in Kenya and operations in the East African region has come up with the report highlighting the existence of Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE) in the country.

Dubbed ‘The Dark Side of the Internet for Children – Online Sexual Exploitation in Kenya’, the research, scheduled to be released this week, has established strong evidence of OCSE in Kenya.

The study suggests that children are involved in live streaming of sexual acts, which takes place in private residences as well as through the unregulated Cybercafé industry.

Kenya country manager Angela Nyamu says the rapid development in internet and technology coupled with cheap smartphones and tablets mean that more Kenyans are digitally connected.

“Unfortunately, the digitally advanced environment represents a double-edged sword, children from poor and marginalised communities are especially vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation, including online child sexual exploitation,” she said.

Back rooms Nyamu says the report will be key in augmenting discussion relating to OCSE in the Kenya Computer and Cybercrimes Bill of 2017 currently before the National Assembly.

Some cybercafés in Kenya provide private back rooms that are not restricted and anyone, including children, can enter as long as they can pay, the study says.

Cybercafés and cell phones offer access to public chat rooms, social media, video chatting and other file sharing software, it adds. OCSE refers to the very broad phenomenon of the use of the internet as a means to exploit children sexually.

This includes live online child exploitation, which specifically involves live performance of sexual acts in front of a webcam or cell phone camera by children and is instantaneously transmitted to paying adult viewers who can watch and engage while the abuse is occurring.

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