What you need to know:
- Sex for fish was rampant ten years ago, and was widely practised in beaches across Nyanza.
- Different organizations have come up with programs to provide solutions meant to end the vice.
- One such initiative is being implemented by Echo Network Africa which has given fishing equipment to 100 women to help them engage in aquaculture.
On any given day, most beaches in are a beehive of activities as early as 5am.
Crowds, mostly women, gather by the lake shore at dawn, waiting for overnight fishing boats to dock and deliver fish to them.
In the boats are fishermen whose lives revolve around the beach and the lake.
As a result, most of them have, unfortunately, developed a culture of alcoholism, drug abuse and irresponsible sexual behaviour, leading to a rise in HIV infections.
When their boats dock at the beach, women help the men to anchor the vessels before they start engaging in the day's business.
In some areas, fish mongers get the commodity upon payment of cash. Other fishermen wait for the delicacy to be sold at the market before they receive their payment.
But there are also other fishermen who give out fish for free, or at a reduced cost with a promise of sexual favours from the buyer in return.
This mode of doing business is called jaboya (sex for fish). This practice was rampant ten years ago, and was widely practised in beaches across Nyanza.
But with interventions from NGOs and the government, jaboya casesdeclined, with only a few people talking about it.
Part of the intervention involved conducting civic education, taking legal action against men who violated women’s rights and women empowerment, among others initiatives.
Fish stock decline
Some fishermen had made jaboya a tradition and the vice remains difficult to completely eliminate.
In some beaches in Homa Bay, it is said, women still give in when fishermen seek sexual favours. The vice is heightened by dwindling fish supply in Lake Victoria.
As more women get into the business while fish stock declines, the level of vulnerability increases among fish traders who will do anything just to get something to sell at the market.
Rose Mkauta, the chairperson of Mrongo Women Group claims fishermen from Mfangano Island still practice jaboya.
“Some of the men who engage in this vice are foreigners from Tanzania and Uganda who also fish in the lake. There is still a risk of contracting HIV,” she tells Nation.Africa.
The group constitutes women who have started their own fish business to avoid falling prey to men who practice sex for fish.
In some cases, underage girls have fallen victim to the men who operate in the lake.
Mbita Division Assistant County Commissioner Neema Weche, says though the government, in partnership with other stakeholders, is trying to end the cases, some rogue men still violate women’s rights making the security officers’ work difficult.
“Sale of illicit brew, which is rampant in beaches, has been a catalyst to the vices. Alcohol leads to wrong judgement,” she says.
Different organizations have come up with programs to provide solutions meant to end the vices.
One such initiative is being implemented by Echo Network Africa (ENA) which has given fishing equipment to 100 women to help them engage in aquaculture and end dependence on men to get fish.
ENA empowers women from marginalized communities where access to social justice is a problem.
Four women groups from Homa Bay have so far, benefited from Sh6 million assorted fishing items. They include fish cages for aquaculture, motorized boats to access cages, refrigerators to keep the fish fresh and solar lights.
This initiative will upscale fish farming among women and fight jaboya.
ENA in partnership with Mennonite Economic Development Associates (Meda) handed over the equipment to beneficiaries with an overall goal of enhancing sustainable livelihoods and empowering rural women and their families.
It will also eradicate gender-based violence cases along the lake as the beneficiaries will be ambassadors of gender rights.
County Beach Management Unit (BMU) Chairman Edward Oremo, said fishing and fish farming is a male-dominated career, thus women selling fish often fall prey to men who exploit them.
Most of them have suffered from different forms of violence that remain unreported.
“Perpetrators are mostly men. There is need for more sensitization to save women from the vice,” Mr Oremo said.
With aquaculture programmes like the one ENA is engaged in, women can now move to the lake and get their own fish for sale without waiting for men to supply them.
ENA Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Riria, said the initiative aims at ensuring the voice of women is strengthened and human rights violations along aquaculture value chain are reduced.
“The initiative also ensures strengthened gender and rights based approach to address HIV-related human rights violations, gender biases, harmful cultural and sexual gender-based violence, among the women,” she said while witnessing the equipment handover at Litare beach in Rusinga Island last week.
The aquaculture programme is being implemented in Homa Bay County in four beaches; Litare, Wakula, Kaugege and Mrongo.
Four new beaches will be added to the list by 2027, as more women seek empowerment from the organization.
Ms Riria said ENA trained women on aquaculture cage farming in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries before the materials were given to them.
Walter Tinega from Meda, said beneficiaries were also trained on entrepreneurship and financial literacy to help them engage in aquaculture as a business enterprise that will generate income for their families.
“We trained them on how to do business. We also engaged local BMUs on the initiative,” he said.
His organization contributed 50 per cent of the capital for purchasing the equipment.
Dr Riria called on the county government to support and ensure the project becomes a success.
Jack Obonyo who represented Governor Gladys Wanga, said the county government is committed to ensure cases of GBV are eradicated.
“Let us join hands in ensuring women participate in the development agenda. The executive will support legislations meant to ensure women rights are protected,” Mr Obonyo said.