Every year, over 400 million children around the world are exposed to child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). Defined as any exploitative and abusive sexual activity involving a child, CSEA can lead to a lifetime of physical and emotional damage for survivors. In Kenya, where many cases of CSEA go unreported, and there is no single national database for recording cases, it is not possible to quantify the scale of the problem. However, evidence shows that CSEA is becoming increasingly common across the country.
The prevalence of CSEA in Kenya has been exacerbated in recent years by the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence from the Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya Network suggests that the pandemic changed patterns of sexual violence against children,2 with victims now aged 12 on average3, compared to 16 previously4. Forensic medical examiners at gender-based violence recovery centres also noted that survivors attending hospitals for sexual and gender-based violations during the COVID-19 pandemic were often below the age of 16.5
With CSEA increasingly being perpetrated online and with the use of digital technologies, Kenya’s role as a technology hub in East Africa has led to disproportionate growth in the prevalence of online
CSEA, including transnational organized crimes such as sex trafficking and the production and distribution of child sexual abuse material. In 2020, between 5 and 13 percent of internet-using children in Kenya (aged 12-17) reported experiencing CSEA online, while 7 percent of internet-using children were offered money or gifts in return for sexual images or videos of themselves, which were subsequently shared with others.
This brief aims to support civil society organizations to improve legal, policy and other responses to child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) in Kenya.
It is an output of the Enhancing Policy Responses to Addressing Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Kenya project, which Equality Now and TRACE Kenya implemented in 2022 as part of the Out of the Shadows Index global project.