In Summary
  • 76.6 per cent say county and national governments should decriminalise sex for money.
  • Ethiopia and Senegal are some of the African countries where prostitution is legal to people above 18 but owning a brothel is illegal.

The majority of Kenyans want commercial sex work legalised and regulated to curb the spread of HIV and Aids, a new study shows.

At the same time, most prostitutes say they are willing pay tax should the government recognise the oldest trade and allow them to operate freely, the study released on Friday by Spectrum Network International says.

Out of a sample population of 1,224 respondents countrywide, 76.6 per cent say county and national governments should decriminalise sex for money.


The respondents comprised 57.1 per cent males and 42.9 per cent females aged 18 and above and cut across all professions, age groups, religions and geographical settings.

The study also sampled 406 commercial sex workers separately across the country and more than half or 52.2 per cent reported they were ready to contribute to the public coffers.

On average the study, titled Public Perception of Commercial Sex Work in Kenya, found that a commercial sex worker rakes in Sh1,500 a day.

Considering a study done in 2001 that showed that Kenya has over 200,000 men and women selling sex, Spectrum International put the daily income from the sector at Sh300 million.

This implies that the government loses an opportunity to tax about Sh110.5 billion annually that is earned by the commercial sex workers.

It must, however, be noted that not all sex workers ply their trade seven days a week for the whole year or that they attract clients every day.

But economists argue that despite the attractive revenue the government could reap, the country’s social cultural dynamics do not allow it to tax it.

“The reason prostitution is illegal, though we know it happens, is because we are a highly social country and that makes it hard for the authorities to regulate, let alone tax sex workers,” Ms Joy Kiiru, an economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi said.

“It happens in highly developed nations where there are strict guidelines around the conduct of prostitution, but in Kenya we have so many social and cultural barriers,” she said.

According to Mr Meshark Ndolo of Spectrum International Research and Strategy Division, respondents said that legalising and regulating prostitution will reduce the spread of HIV and Aids and crime as the majority of sex workers will have a code of conduct to subscribe to.

“The majority of respondents opted to have commercial sex work legalised, regulated and taxed to ensure orderliness, mitigate crime, fight corruption, drug abuse, stop child prostitution as well as stop the spread of HIV/Aids,” Mr Ndolo says.


Up to 84.1 per cent of respondents said prostitutes were involved in crime directly and perpetrated criminal activities on their clients.

“This was further evidenced by 93.5 per cent of the 406 sex workers polled who confirmed having stolen from clients or coordinated a mission to steal from a client spotted to have money or expensive gadgets,” the study found.

Prostitutes surveyed said they pay an average of Sh400 to security providers/business owners per day, while others are only required to buy a soft drink at the entrance for about Sh70.

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