Several African countries, such as Tanzania, Morocco, Nigeria or Egypt, are seeing sex tourism on the rise. A scourge that mainly affects minors. What measures are taken against this phenomenon?
Unlike countries in Asia, Latin America or even Eastern Europe, known as prime destinations for sex tourists, several African countries are also facing this scourge, but consider it a taboo. The concealment of this phenomenon puts women in perpetual danger, but especially minors. And on the side of the powers, we are slow to take measures, fearing to affect the foreigners involved. However, the fight against sexual exploitation is highlighted, sometimes artificially, with political trials, the consequences of which are often counterproductive.
Tanzania: a timid fight against sex tourism
According to United Nations figures, 97% of sex workers - 160 people - in Tanzania are women, 000% of whom are minors. An awareness program was put in place by the government in 42, on the recommendation of former President Jakaya Kikwete. Prostitution in the country is illegal, but it is mostly practiced in hotel complexes on the mainland of Tanzania, not far from the border with Kenya. But where the phenomenon is most visible, it is in Zanzibar, where many minors engage in prostitution. Problem: local populations are dependent on income from tourism, so much so that the federal state does not really want to launch a hunt for pedophiles.
Since the end of Kikwete's tenure, things have not improved. President John Magufuli, who died in recent months, had launched several waves of arrests in the north of the country. But in Zanzibar, the practice has remained common. A health scourge too: sex tourism in Tanzania has historically caused the spread of AIDS. Today, there are 1,8 million Tanzanians affected by this disease. One third of sex workers are believed to be infected. But this is far from discouraging the thousands of tourists who come to enjoy sex tourism in the country every year. According to the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS), the overwhelming majority of tourists involved come from Western Europe - France and Italy especially - and North America.
In Nigeria, the unbearable human trafficking
Another report, this one from last January, compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), deplores an alarming increase in sex tourism in rural Nigeria. The problem of the exploitation of minors is even more acute than in any other African country. The cause, explains UNODC, is that underage prostitution is often linked to human trafficking. “Children represent more than 75% of victims of trafficking detected in West Africa (…). In Nigeria, 62% of victims of human trafficking are also victims of forced prostitution or sexual slavery ”, estimates the UN agency.
The Nigerian state, however, has been receptive to the report. Humanitarian Affairs Minister Sadiya Farouq praised the document released by UNODC as it “provides valuable information to all stakeholders as we continue to face unprecedented challenges due to human trafficking”.
In Nigeria, sex tourism is also very common in the business world. A case called “Corporate prostitution” shook public opinion in 2004. According to the investigation of a parliamentary commission, a majority of women working for financial institutions are forced to engage in prostitution in the workplace. The same survey highlights the low percentage of Nigerian men working in banking institutions and trading firms, while the majority of women are Nigerians. The case had led to the withdrawal of the licenses of several Western traders and entrepreneurs.
Morocco and Egypt: sex tourism ... political
As for Morocco and Egypt, sex tourism has become a cliché. Prostitution is however illegal in these two countries. But the figures are appalling: in greater Cairo, the Scelles Foundation identifies between 200 and 000 million child victims of sexual exploitation by tourists, and a total of 1 million sex workers. This would represent almost 1,6% of the Egyptian population.
In Morocco, there are only government statistics which speak of 50 women who engage in prostitution. However, the Cherifian kingdom seems to be downplaying the numbers. In particular because of the fact that minors exploited in sex tourism are mostly boys. A study carried out by Unicef, published in 000, speaks of 2016% of young men victims of exploitation, more than a third of whom are barely 57 years old. A tenth of these sex workers have started to prostitute themselves at the age of 13!
Within Moroccan civil society, voices are gradually rising against sex tourism. Several documentaries, films and studies denounce the prostitution of young men, but also of women. At the center of the fight: the impunity enjoyed by clients.
Indeed, foreigners are not really worried by national laws, even those concerning the prostitution of minors. On the other hand, the Shereefian throne does not hesitate to launch scandals on the subject, in an occasional way, to promote the policy of the government. The journalist Soulaimane Raissouni, imprisoned for a year for sexual harassment against a stranger, is one of the most famous cases. The journalist had criticized the "government lies about the statistics of the Covid-19 pandemic". In another case, the French comedian Brahim Bouhlel was sentenced to one year in prison for a video in which he denounces sex tourism in Morocco.
As in Morocco, in Egypt, morals have become boons for the authoritarian regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Since 2018, no less than 23 influencers on social networks have been accused of "inciting debauchery", or "corruption of family values" and pimping. As the Egyptian state turns a blind eye to the tens of thousands of tourists exploiting women and children in the country, it uses anti-prostitution laws to jail opponents.