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Citizen Weekly

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


Sori beach, along the source of Lake Victoria in South Nyanza erupts into activity when the boats arrive bringing in their catch. Female fishmongers scramble along the beach to buy fish, shouting their names out to get the attention of the fishermen and cartels (jo achumbo) that control the trade.
Rose Achieng, a 17-year old standard six drop out is among the jostling fishmongers. She is dressed in a conspicuous mini-skirt and a short blouse that strains to cover her umbilical cord. Her hair is neatly plaited making her easy to notice.
“I don’t sell fish but my aunt does, she is aged and that is why I a company her to get fish without serious struggle. We earn a living from the sales of this precious commodity,” she says.
Her aunt, Lucia Nyongudi, who is well known at the beach as “Nyaber” the beautiful lady, is a veteran in the industry whose reign has been wiped by the hands of clock. Her beauty is hardly noticed by the young and energetic fishermen and it’s the reason she brings Rose with her as an inducement to the fishermen to handover the best of their catch for fewer amounts in good faith.
It is well known that fishing is the economic activity of the river lake Nilotes since ancient days. A new trend referred to as ‘jaboya’ where a fishmonger and fisherman indulge in sex is sky rocketing along the beaches in Nyanza.
The dubious barter trade is the only way for fish traders to comfortably live their dream lives. Stiff competition for a catch that is less than plentiful  means offering their own bodies is not enough , so the traders have decided to make available their underage girls and in most cases their desperate relatives.
Awiko Kokoth is one of the youthful fishermen well known by his folks and business comrades as “Jahom” (that loosely translates to a person from home area) brags how he has dumped his 54-year-old “girlfriend” and today grooves with more than three girls comfortably. “Despite the fact that I was orphaned at a tender age and suffered a lot at Nyakach - my ancestral home, I can now live my dream. I can get my daily meals, clothe myself and even make sure that my sweethearts (girlfriends) are well dressed and eat well”. Says Awiko as he takes his final puff of ‘ombitho’ marijuana in a broad day light.
“I have been having unprotected sex with different fishermen and their beach leaders for the last eight years since I dropped out of school in 2005. My parents passed away in the same year and my younger brother and I had no one to turn to, the only solution was him to go and look after some village tycoons cattle as I entered this field. I knew what men want and I was ready to exchange it with money. Wearing short skirts or tight trousers doesn’t cost much and I was ready for easy and fast cash. I’m still in the field despite losing some of my lady friends and clients,” Says Rita in a broad smile.
She admits doing the deadly business but when asked about her H.I.V status, she replies “what one doesn’t know can’t hurt”.
A conversation with one of the beach leaders and an official from a nearby VCT and VMMC centre run by a local NGO reveals a lot. The beach leader nicknamed ‘Jakom’ shares how fishermen prefer pleasure from sexual intercourse with young girls. They don’t care about protecting themselves and can only do so if a new ‘catch’ insists which is very rare.
On the other hand, the VCT officer bitterly narrates how most of the youths from the area including school going ones call themselves “bulls” after undergoing circumcision and engage in sex with any woman that comes across including the old.
He warns that the generation might be wiped out by the deadly disease (HIV) unless the government intervenes and starts HIV/ AIDS programme with local youth groups targeting all participants in the act.
My take: Kerosene has never been used anywhere under the sun to put off fire! Instead of distributing free condoms in such areas, serious campaign against the “fish for sex” trade and HIV/ AIDS is long overdue.