Of the menaces to afflict humanity, poverty is simply a huge indictment on the dignity of a human being. It pushes one to do that which may be abhorrent, that which society may label as a non-starter completely. But it's poverty, that is what it does, it forces people to do what they do not like all in an endeavour to find something to eat and remain alive.
In Kenya's coastal towns, there are cases of men who rent out their wives to rich European tourists so that they can spend time with. The European tourists spend the time with the wives, without knowing that they are the legal spouses of the husbands who would have directed them to the women in the first place.
In poor neighbourhoods such as Maweni, these situations are rife. According to Al Jazeera, there's one couple in the area who have been the protagonists in this practice. Ramadan and Wambui have been married for twenty years now, but Ramadan rents out his wife Wambui to rich German tourists. Ramadan himself is a male sex worker. Ramadan speaks fluent German, which he teaches his wife. His wife, Wambui, said that one day in 2006 her husband asked her to act as his sister after a German tourist had approached Ramadan looking for a lady to spend the holiday with.
The tourism sector in Kenya is reaping huge profits, although this does not translate to any substantial value in the lives of the ordinary villagers who solely depend on that very same tourism. In 2016, the country received more than 1 million tourists and this translated to $100 million earned in taxes. In 2017, Kenya's Diani Beach in Kwale, where Ramadan and Wambui live was ranked the seventh-based beach in Africa.
This figures are impressive. They tell a positive tourism story. But what about the local villager? Ramadan has been a beach operator for twenty years but he says life has been getting difficult by each day. Depending with how the fortunes favour him, he gets up to $40 for helping tourists navigate the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, he says the situation has increasingly been getting desperate.
"We have been neglected. We depend on tourism as a source of living. Since most of us do not have a constant income, my colleagues go to the extreme and give away their wives to have a good living," said Juma, who also chairs the Diani Beach Boys Association.
Kwale County's chief tourism officer Anthony Mwamunga says that they are doing what they can to equip beach vendors and guides with the adequate skills so that they can have a decent living. A decent living would mean constant sources of income which do not fuel uncertainty and insecurity. On the prostitution part, he said that there is little that can be done about that.
There are some risks with this way of life, for example wives not returning. Tobias Juma, who is 42, was perturbed when he learnt that his wife had not come back after he had rented her to an Austrian tourist. She was the familiy's breadwinner, bringing an average of $400 every month.
And then obviously, the rampant increase in HIV cases is just an inevitable one. The National Aids Control Council estimates that Kenya's coastal counties reported 5,335 new HIV/AIDS cases in 2016, surging from 325 reported in 2014.
Faith Mwende is the Kenya advocacy manager for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a global non-profit creating awareness about HIV prevention.
"The danger is when such women engage with more than one sexual partner, the chances of getting sexually transmitted diseases and infections are very high, especially when she doesn't know the status of the other person," Mwende said.
Despite these risks, the dire situation in Kenya's coastal towns shows no signs of taking a halt. It is a conundrum that the nation's authorities will have to address at some point, surely.