Slavery in Kenya



Estimates are that over 20,000 children are trafficked in Kenya. The practice of child trafficking and prostitution is rampant due to private villas mostly rented by visiting tourists. In addition, internal trafficking of Kenyans is considered to be widespread, particularly from rural to urban areas such as Nairobi and Mombasa for exploitation in domestic labour and commercial sex. The majority of Kenyan victims are either trafficked or introduced to their traffickers by family members or friends, with the most common method of recruitment being promises of good jobs or education. Once in a trafficking situation, victims report overwork, physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or under-payment, poor working conditions, and restricted or no access to schooling.


Among the destinations to which Kenyans are trafficked are Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen which are notorious destinations for women trafficked from Kenya. They are also trafficked to Germany, Italy and South Africa for domestic labour and prostitution. Trafficking of children within Kenya is also rampant.


A new report by an international trade unions’ umbrella organisation says are

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) says Kenyans were

Its report, ‘Trafficking in Persons — The Eastern Africa Situation’, notes that women and children were favourite targets for well-organised trafficking rings, which operate freely for lack of solid laws against the vice.

Dr George Gona, an expert on trade unions at the University of Nairobi, said Studies showed children were being removed from their rural homes to urban centres to work as domestic helps and prostitutes.


39 year old Lucy K was excited to be at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. She had every reason to be, for she had just boarded a plane on her way to Germany, courtesy of her German “boyfriend”. Various thoughts flashed through her mind as the plane cut through the clouds on its way to Frankfurt, where she was to spend a three-month holiday. But all hopes of an exciting and wonderful stay in a foreign land were shattered on arrival in Germany, when her host confiscated her travel documents and denied her food for several days before informing her that she would work as a sex slave.


Poverty, lack of education and high number of HIV/Aids orphans exposes many people to human trafficking. Lack of proper laws and policies is hampering the fight against trafficking. Many girls are taken from Iringa and brought to major cities to work as house-girls but they end up being subjected to prostitution and other works which they did not expect. Many young boys, she said, are taken to work in the mining companies.


The most common forms of trafficking in children from and within Kenya are theft of toddlers, abduction of children for forced marriage, confinement of child domestic servants, abduction of children for use in occult practices, and illicit intercountry adoptions. Many pregnant women are reportedly involved in baby trafficking, in which babies who are days old are sold by the mother or by other individuals.


A unique feature of child prostitution in Kenya is that people take in destitute children but instead of caring for them, they hire the children out as prostitutes from time to time. Some children are also kept in brothels alongside adult prostitutes. Child marriages have also been noted as a form of sexual exploitation. They are common among the pastoral communities in districts including Kajiado, Transmara, Moyale, Wajir, and Mandera. According to the report, some parents are known to marry off their young girls to older men in order to pay the school fees of their male siblings.


The new Constitution of Kenya 2010; Part 2 Section 20 ‘Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’ states:


1. A person shall not be held in servitude’

2. A person shall not be required to perform forced labour’


In September 2014, the government passed the Victim Protection Act, which improves support to trafficking victims including accommodation, food, medical treatment, psycho-social care, police protection, and the establishment of a fund; however, it is unclear what efforts officials have made to begin implementation of these measures. While efforts to assist and care for child trafficking victims remained strong, the government provided relatively few services to adult trafficking victims identified within the country or abroad.




Children’s Act (2001)

The Penal Code 2003

The Sexual Offences Act No 3 of 2006 Revised Edition 2007 (2006)

The Counter Trafficking in Persons Bill

Constitution of Kenya, 2010

The Victim Protection Act,2014


2016 ILO Protocol to strengthen global efforts to eliminate forced labour – not signed



Slavery in Kenya