Grace, a year-old single mum from northern Nairobi, has a regular sponsor, but is actively seeking a more lucrative relationship with a man who will invest in her career as a singer. She is poor by the standards of middle-class Kenyans, often living hand-to-mouth, dancing for cash in a nightclub, and struggling to put her daughter through school.
But her determination to feed and educate her child coexists with a naked ambition to become rich and famous through modelling and music. Is she driven more by vanity or poverty, aspiration or desperation? The lines are blurred. Both Grace and Jane have come of age in the last decade, bombarded since childhood with images of female status built on sex appeal. But according to Crystal Simeoni, an expert on gender and economic policy, Kenyan society encourages sugar relationships in other ways too.
If women have become more willing to profit financially from their youth and beauty, she says, it's partly because of Kenya's gross economic inequalities, lack of social mobility, and widespread corruption. Hard work won't get them anywhere. Michael Soi, a well-known artist whose paintings satirise Kenya's culture of transactional sex, takes a similar but more cynical view, attributing the phenomenon more to laziness and a get-rich-quick mentality than to structural injustice.
The days of waking up early and working from morning to night are behind us, he says: "Right now the ass is the new brain, and this is what you use to get what you want. George Paul Meiu, who studies transactional relationships between men of Kenya's Samburu tribe and older European women, has described how their youth and good looks have become valuable commodities in Kenya's beach resorts.
Thanks to a set of "African warrior" stereotypes and myths about tribal sexual prowess, the Samburu and others like them are particularly appealing to both local and foreign sugar mummies.
Some Samburu villages, he says, claim they have been unable to defend themselves against cattle raids from neighbouring tribes because so many young men have migrated to the coast to become beach boys. But as most of those dependent on sugar relationships are female, they have dominated the public debate.
There are concerns about the morality of their lifestyle, but also about its consequences for their health. Kerubo, a year-old from Kisii in Western Kenya, maintains that she has control of her relationship with her sugar daddy, Alfred. But when I ask her about safe sex, this illusion quickly evaporates. Both Alfred and her other sponsor, James, prefer not to use condoms, she says. In fact she has had umasala-magazin.comotected sex with multiple sugar daddies, who then have sex with other women, as well as with their wives, exposing all of these partners to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
Dr Joyce Wamoyi from the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania says girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 have consistently been at higher risk of HIV infection than any other section of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. Sugar relationships, she says, are contributing to these risks because the women who engage in them do not have the power to insist on the use of condoms.
A look at the Kenyan tabloids also suggests that women are at risk of violence from their sponsors. It's not hard to find headlines such as "Stabbed to death by a man who has been funding her university education," "Kenyan 'sponsor' threatens lover, posts COFFINS on Facebook and she DIES afterwards," "Pretty Year-Old Girl Killed By Her Sugar Daddy. Jackie Phamotse, a South African businesswoman who survived an abusive relationship with a "blesser", described her experiences in a tell-all book, Bare: The Blesser's Game.
Most young women, she says, are not aware of the dangers. Phamotse eventually fled her abuser, with nothing to show for the relationship.
No-one really knows how many sugar relationships end in sexual abuse or physical harm. Kenyan academics and NGOs have made extensive studies of domestic violence, and of the risks faced by sex workers. But on the subject of transactional sex there is no research - only the lurid anecdotes of the tabloids. Among Kenyan feminists, the rise of sponsor culture has provoked intense debate.
Does the breaking of old taboos around sex represent a form of female empowerment? Or is sponsor culture just another way in which the female body can be auctioned for the pleasure of men? There is less slut-shaming than before. But while some feminists argue that any choice a woman makes is inherently feminist - because it was made by a woman - others question how free the choice to enter a sponsor relationship really is.
A lot of times these women don't have a choice - it's life or death. Mildred Ngesa, an ambassador for the global activist group Female Wave of Change, makes a similar argument. After decades of women struggling for the right to vote, to own land, to go to school, she argues, the "choice" to engage in sugar relationships is steeped in contradiction.
Jane, the student, makes a distinction, arguing that "in these relationships, things are done on your terms", and Dr Kirsten Stoebenau, a social scientist who has researched transactional sex in Kenya, agrees that this is significant.
Grace, the aspiring singer struggling to put food on the table, has a slightly different perspective - to her the similarities with sex work are more apparent. The artist Michael Soi notes that Kenya remains on the surface a religious society with traditional sexual mores - but only on the surface. Those who deplore sex before marriage and infidelity within marriage rarely practise what they preach, he argues, and the condemnation of sugar relationships is tainted by the same hypocrisy.
But it's all a pretence," he says.
For many young Kenyans, the values espoused in families, schools, and churches simply do not align with the economic realities of the country, or cannot compete with the material temptations that, in the age of reality TV and social media, are everywhere visible. Even within the family, most Kenyan girls have it drummed into them from an early age that they must marry a rich man, not a poor one. It's taken for granted in these conversations that men will provide the money on which women will survive.
So for some it's only a small step to visualising the same transaction outside marriage. But sometimes, it ain't wrong at all. Nyasha Kadandara is a Zimbabwean journalist and film-maker who works mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. SEX AND THE SUGAR DADDY.
In Kenya, more and more young women are using sugar daddies to fund a lifestyle worth posting on social media.
Transactional sex was once driven by poverty, says film-maker Nyasha Kadandara. But now, increasingly, it's driven by vanity. Warning: Contains adult themes and graphic images. W hen a poor family in Cambodia fell afoul of loan sharks, the mother asked her youngest daughter to take a job.
But not just any job. The girl, Kieu, was taken to a hospital and examined by a doctor, who issued her a "certificate of virginity.
She says she returned home from the experience "very heartbroken. After the sale of her virginity, her mother had Kieu taken to a brothel where, she says, "they held me like I was in prison.
She was kept there for three days, raped by three to six men a day.
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When she returned home, her mother sent her away for stints in two other brothels, including one kilometers away on the Thai border. When she learned her mother was planning to sell her again, this time for a six-month stretch, she realized she needed to flee her home. Karaoke bars are a common front for child prostitution.
Mira Sorvino details going behind the scenes of this illicit trade. Read more. Like other local mothers CNN spoke to, she blames poverty for her decision to sell her daughter, saying a financial crisis drove her into the clutches of the traffickers who make their livelihoods preying on Cambodian children.
It is this ct of Cambodia's appalling child sex trade that Don Brewster, a year-old American resident of the neighborhood, finds most difficult to countenance.
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Brewster, a former pastor, moved from California to Cambodia with wife Bridget inafter a harrowing investigative mission trip to the neighborhood where Kieu grew up - Svay Pak, the epicenter of child trafficking in the Southeast Asian nation.
In recent decades, he says, this impoverished fishing village - where a daughter's virginity is too often seen as a valuable asset for the family - has become a notorious child sex hotspot. The local sex industry sweeps up both children from the neighborhood - sold, like Kieu, by their parents - as well as children trafficked in from the countryside, or across the border from Vietnam.
Brandi Love: Watching my Mom Go Black (Video ) photos, including production stills, premiere photos and other event photos, publicity photos, behind-the-scenes, and more By Tim Hume, Lisa Cohen and Mira Sorvino. Photography by Jeremie Montessuis for CNN. Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN) W hen a poor family in Cambodia fell afoul of loan sharks, the mother asked her
Weak law enforcement, corruption, grinding poverty and the fractured social institutions left by the country's turbulent recent history have helped earn Cambodia an unwelcome reputation for child trafficking, say experts.
UNICEF estimates that children account for a third of the 40, people in the country's sex industry. Svay Pak, a dusty shantytown on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, is at the heart of this exploitative trade.
In Kenya, more and more young women are using sugar daddies to fund a lifestyle worth posting on social media. Transactional sex was once driven by poverty, says film-maker Nyasha Kadandara. But A Nebraska jury found a year-old mom guilty Wednesday of sexually assaulting her daughter's young friends after grooming them at booze-infused overnight parties. Christina Greer, 38, allowed Tamyra Mensah-Stock is first Black woman to win wrestling gold for U.S. Passenger taped to seat after allegedly groping flight attendants; Senate slowly presses forward on bipartisan Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins
The residents are mostly undocumented Vietnamese migrants, many of whom live in ramshackle houseboats on the murky Tonle Sap River, eking out a living farming fish in nets tethered to their homes. It's a precarious existence. The river is fickle, the tarp-covered houseboats fragile. Most families here scrape by on less than a dollar a day, leaving no safety net for when things go wrong - such as when Kieu's father fell seriously ill with tuberculosis, too sick to maintain the nets that contained their livelihood.
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The family fell behind on repayments of a debt. In desperation, Kieu's mother, Neoung, sold her virginity to a Cambodian man of "maybe more than 50," who had three children of his own, Kieu says. Don Brewster, a former pastor from California, is the founder and director of Agape International Missions, an organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating the victims of child trafficking in Cambodia and smashing the networks that exploit them.
He moved to Cambodia with his wife in after a harrowing investigative mission trip to the neighborhood. The men who abuse the children of Svay Pak fit a number of profiles.
They include pedophile sex tourists, who actively seek out sex with prepubescent children, and more opportunistic "situational" offenders, who take advantage of opportunities in brothels to have sex with adolescents. Sex tourists tend to hail from affluent countries, including the West, South Korea, Japan and China, but research suggests Cambodian men remain the main exploiters of child prostitutes in their country.
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Mark Capaldi is a senior researcher for Ecpat International, an organization committed to combating the sexual exploitation of children. But the majority of sexual exploitation of children is of adolescents, and that's taking place in commercial sex venues.
The abusers would often be local, situational offenders, he says. Research suggests some of the Asian perpetrators are "virginity seekers," for whom health-related beliefs around the supposedly restorative or protective qualities of virgins factor into their interest in child sex.
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Whatever the profile of the perpetrator, the abuse they inflict on their victims, both girls and boys, is horrific. Trafficked children in Cambodia have been subjected to rape by multiple offenders, filmed performing sex acts and left with physical injuries - not to mention psychological trauma - from their ordeals, according to research.
In recent years, various crackdowns in Svay Pak have dented the trade, but also pushed it underground. Today, Brewster says, there are more than a dozen karaoke bars operating as brothels along the road to the neighborhood, where two years ago there was none. Even today, he estimates a majority of girls in Svay Park are being trafficked. Kieu's relative, Sephak, who lives nearby, is another survivor.
CNN is naming the victims in this case at the request of the girls themselves, as they want to speak out against the practice of child sex trafficking. Sephak was 13 when she was taken to a hospital, issued a certificate confirming her virginity, and delivered to a Chinese man in a Phnom Penh hotel room.
She was returned after three nights. I hurt and I felt very weak," she says. I thought about why I was doing this and why my mom did this to me. Toha listens to her mother explain how she came to sell her to sex traffickers.
She no longer lives with her family, opting instead to live in a residence for trafficking survivors run by Brewster's organization - but still provides her family some financial support from her new job.
Not far away from Sephak's family home, connected to the shore via a haphazard walkway of planks that dip beneath the water with each footfall, is the houseboat where Toha grew up.
The second of eight children, none of whom attend school, Toha was sold for sex by her mother when she was The transaction followed the same routine: medical certificate, hotel, rape. About two weeks after she returned to Svay Pak, she says, the man who had bought her virginity began calling, requesting to see her again.
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Her mother urged her to go. The pressure drove her to despair. I cut my wrists because I wanted to kill myself," Toha says. A friend broke down the door to the bathroom and came to her aid.
CNN met with the mothers of Kieu, Sephak and Toha in Svay Pak to hear their accounts of why they chose to expose their daughters to sexual exploitation. Kieu's mother, Neoung, had come to Svay Pak from the south of the country in search of a better life when Kieu was just a baby. But life in Svay Pak, she would learn, wasn't easy. How has this Southeast Asian nation become a hotspot for pedophiles?
Poverty, corruption and a brutal reign of terror have all played a part in making Cambodian children vulnerable to adult predators. Sephak's mother, Ann, has a similar story. Ann moved to Svay Pak when her father came to work as a fish farmer.
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She and her husband have serious health problems. The family fell on hard times. When a storm roared through the region, their house was badly damaged, their fish got away, and they could no longer afford to eat. With money-lenders coming to her home and threatening her, Ann made the decision to take up an offer from a woman who approached her promising big money for her daughter's virginity. On her houseboat, as squalls of rain lash the river, Toha's mother Ngao sits barefoot before the television taking pride of place in the main living area, and expresses similar regrets.
On the wall hangs a row of digitally enhanced portraits of her husband and eight children. They are dressed in smart suits and dresses, superimposed before an array of fantasy backdrops: an expensive motorcycle, a tropical beach, an American-style McMansion. Life with so many children is hard, she says, so she asked her daughter to go with the men. She would not do the same again, she says, as she now has access to better support; Agape International Missions offers interest-free loan refinancing to get families out of the debt trap, and factory jobs for rescued daughters and their mothers.
Mira Sorvino details her week spent in Cambodia with the CNN Freedom Project meeting victims, government officials and activists working to end child sex trafficking. The news of Ngao's betrayal of her daughter has drawn mixed responses from others in the neighborhood, she says. Some mock her for offering up her daughter, others sympathize with her plight. Some see nothing wrong with she did at all. Not long after her suicide attempt, Toha was sent to a brothel in southern Cambodia.