Teach a man to fish… and you kill off the next generation of women

From IRIN PlusNews (KENYA: Young girls the new bait for fishermen):

[In] Dunga Beach, [Kenya], [f]emale fishmongers scramble along the beach to buy fish, shouting themselves hoarse to get the attention of the fishermen and middlemen, who control whether or not the women will have anything to sell that day.

Mingling with the jostling fishmongers is 19-year-old Lillian Onoka; stylishly dressed and with neatly plaited hair, she is easily noticed…

Her aunt brings her as an inducement to the fishermen to hand over the best of their catch. Onoka says she is not tied to one fisherman, but will sleep with whoever offers the best deal on any given day.

This trend is a new take on an old system, known as ‘jaboya’ (a customer who is also a lover, in the local Luo language), in which female fishmongers develop sexual relationships with fishermen and middlemen in exchange for fish. 

But with fish scarce, the fishermen and middlemen are more demanding. In effect they have raised the ‘price’:

Kennedy Omondi, 28, has been a fisherman since he was 17, when he dropped out of high school to help his father run his fleet of 10 fishing boats. After his father’s death, he took over the management of the business, making him relatively affluent in this community. Although married with two children, he told IRIN/PlusNews he regularly has sex with young girls in exchange for fish.

“I would rather have sex with the young girls they bring to us than have sex with my mother’s age-mates,” he said. Omondi is not conscientious about using condoms; he will use a condom if a girl brings one along, but if she doesn’t, he will have unprotected sex.

The province has an HIV prevalence of 15.3 percent. Among “fisher folk” it’s 30.5 percent. Girls in the province start sexual relations an average of three years earlier than elsewhere in the country. Poverty and lack of access to sex ed are the key reasons. The girls also want money “to fit into urban life” according to the province’s medical officer. All this is shocking if not really surprising.

Local NGOs including the Dunga Fishermen & Women Association and OSIENALA (Friends of Lake Victoria) are working with Radio Nam Lolwe (Radio Lake Victoria) to craft radio messages addressing the fishing community. UK charity Merlin is working with local groups to raise awareness of the dangers of the practice.

September 16, 2008

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