Have you ever heard of sex for fish? Is it sexy? This is a phenomenon common in many low- and middle-income developing countries. The bulk cases have been reported in the sub-Saharan Africa’s inland fisheries. The most vulnerable victims are economically disadvantaged women. This include the single or divorced women and widows residing along the shores.
Sex-for-fish, locally known as ‘’Jaboya’’ is a common practice in Nyamware beach in Kisumu County, Kobura ward. A team from Stada Kenya visited the beach for a dialogue. We were surprised to find out that this practice has been there for long and the residents don’t even fear talking about it.
‘This ‘Jaboya’ thing will always be there. So many organizations have tried giving grants to women to startup businesses, but it has always failed. They are used to the free money,’’ said one of the residents. ‘When you are a woman and you want to get into the business of selling fish, you have to lose your pride and use your body for bargaining,’ they told us.
Several economic factors including poverty, cultural practices and competition among women who are involved in fish trade are often listed as variables fueling the sex for fish practice. Most families within Nyamware beach are living hand to mouth and so the women give sexual favors to ‘joboya’ to be able to get fish to trade and support their families. In the dialogue, the women blamed men for not being able to provide for their needs and so they must look for other ways to survive. Some say their husbands are chronic drug users who do not even care about the children and family.
Poverty is driving women to do the unthinkable. They are worried more about failing to provide for their families than getting HIV infections. Rate of HIV infections in this area is higher. Rate of teenage pregnancy is almost 70%. This is because the young girls and boys who live near Nyamware beach practice the same thing they see their parents indulge in. in one case, a class 3 had delivered and was now at home taking care of the baby. A baby with a baby, right? She lives with the grandmother who is a widow. The grandmother says that the father of the child is not even known. Will the girl ever go back to school?
One of the eldest women further explained that ‘joboya’ only go for younger women. She finds it so hard to get fish to trade. Sometimes she stays the whole day at the beach and goes back ho me without fish. At one point she was told that she is out of fashion and should leave the business for younger women. The sight of women buying fish with money is rare. The currency is sex.
The transactional sex in Nyamware beach does not affect only women, one man told us that there are women who take fish from them ask to pay through sex. For him when he encountered this incidence, he decided to let the money be since he did no want to interfere with his marriage. He urged men to remain firm and reject such offers.
The residents suggested that the government should send various organizations to visit the beach and engage everyone since engaging women and leaving men and the young people cannot solve the problem. They say that this ‘jaboya’ issue can end but only if a lot of sensitizations is done including all the residents.