|Commercial sex workers at Chobingo forest [Photo: Tobias Chanji/Standard]|
By Tobias Chanji
Skimpily dressed women stand in paths in the bush whistling, clapping and winking to attract potential male clients.
Chobingo forest in Ukunda town, Kwale County has turned into a den of prostitutes.
About 12 women in their 20s have converted the forest into their lodging and were willing to offer sexual satisfaction for as little as Sh50.
Dressed skimpily, the women stand in the paths inside the bush whistling, clapping and winking to attract potential male clients. This is despite pupils and their teachers, besides other residents, passing through the forest each day as they go about their business.
“We could even get men who would part with Sh200 provided they are not required to use protection,” says Lucy Wambui, who is famously known as Queen Sheba.
But the girls now fear for their lives after clients started stealing from them.
“They started stealing our phones,” says Wambui.
A group of young men recently descended on the forest and beat up the girls, injuring some of them.
Wambui says the tents they had put up from tree branches to create a form of privacy were torched by unknown people.
Purity Ndinda is obviously in pain judging from the bandages on her abdomen. She too was attacked by the men but she cannot report to the police.
“There were six of us at our usual place of work when a group of youth came, undressed us and started beating us, calling us malaya wa msituni (bush prostitutes),” says the 25-year-old.
Ndinda got to the neighbouring Teens Watch Rehabilitation Center to get medical attention.
Wambui has a dislocated collar bone and a swollen hand from the beating. She says her medication cost Sh3,500 so far and because she has no money she has resorted to tying her swollen hand with a head scarf.
She says she has experienced too many unfortunate incidences in Chobingo forest and wants to take advantage of her knack in many foreign languages to engage in smart business.
“I know how to plait hair and massage the body. I had two children although one died two months ago. I have been through a lot. We are really terrorised inside the forest and need protection,” added she.
A group of youth took the task of giving them protection, but at a fee.
Ndinda says the said youth who now guarding the forest demand Sh500 protection fee on a daily basis.
Pastor Chrispus Ingoye of the Grace Covenant Church says one of the women had been feeding her child with palm wine after her house was locked for lack of six months’ rent arrears.
“She could give the child three spoonfuls of palm wine to send him to sleep so that she can go back to the forest to look for money. We paid her rent but could not keep up with her other needs,” she said.
Area AP commandant, Mr Gilbert Nyunyi says the only solution is to take the women back to their homes so that they can be helped to stay away from drugs.
“Even if we arrest you, we are not helping you. I urge you not to go back to the forest, let us chase robbers but not you, we want to start organising for you to go back home,” said the commandant when he addressed some of them.
The project manager, Mr Cosmas Maina at the Teens Watch Rehab Center that assists the women with drugs and other basic needs wonders why the men who solicit the girls’ services are not punished.
“The men who beat the girls are the same ones who want to sleep with them, why are they not punished because there are no prostitutes without men counterparts, the women have children who need care, when we are planning for them, let us remember to engage them in income generating activities,” explained Mr Maina.
Ukunda division Assistant Commissioner, Daniel Mwendwa said he was waiting for a detailed report on the women from the center to map out the next course of action.
“Once we get the report, we will get the people involved but the women must change their ways,” he quipped.