Dangers & Annoyances

Sex On the Beach

Visitors to Kenya will soon notice that sex tourism is very common on parts of the coast, and occurs in different contexts, from petrol stations to high-end restaurants.

There's a sizeable number of Western men with younger Kenyan boys and girls, and older Western women with younger Kenyan boys. Assuming nobody is actually under age (which does happen), there’s nothing illegal in this. Sometimes romance is sparked, though some beach boys proudly display long lists of girlfriends on their mobile phones. It’s difficult to judge how many Westerners visit Kenya to seek brief, beachside affairs – one Reuters article quoted the figure as one in five Western women who visit the coast.

Many Kenyans are scandalised by the sight of older Western men with teenage Kenyans, and Western women with significantly younger Kenyan men. While they may recognise these relationships are legal, many also find them extremely distasteful and feel that sex tourism destroys the fabric of their society.

It’s often assumed by both foreign tourists and Kenyans that it’s the Westerner who's in the wrong, but of course nothing is clear cut. A major exposé in a big Kenyan newspaper a couple of years ago revealed that some married Kenyan couples in Malindi actually choose to ‘break up’ during the tourist season and seek foreign lovers for financial gain.

Areas such as Bamburi, Shanzu, Malindi and Mtwapa attract the largest number of sex tourists.