By Rose Odengo
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Strip clubs are on the rise in Kenya, a popular tourist destination. High wages for strippers and tourist interest are fueling the growth of the industry that evades the nation's laws.
Strip clubs are illegal in Kenya. The owners evade that law by registering them as bars. John Ngugi, Nairobi City Council treasurer, says that the City Council must award the bars operating licenses after the liquor licensing board awards the required liquor licenses.
"Our hands are tied," Ngugi says. "We don't regulate how people drink beer--if they drink their beer naked or not."
Police occasionally raid strip clubs, but, without legislation, procedures are unregulated. Lucy recalls a 2 a.m. raid at Barrels, another Nairobi strip club, where police said the club hadn't paid for its license.
"Police came in with guns and all the strippers were asked to take all their clothes off," she says.
The police whisked the patrons and dancers to the police station. At dawn, Lucy bailed herself out with her tips but says she left behind eight shivering colleagues who couldn't afford bail.
Eric Kiraithe, Kenya police spokesperson, says stripping needs clearer regulations, as the Kenyan penal code doesn't differentiate between strippers and prostitutes. Both are misdemeanors, carrying a 3,000-shilling ($36 USD) fine.
Evan Monari, a lawyer, says no strip clubs existed when the penal code was instituted.
He says the Kenya Tourist Board should work with local authorities to create a red-light district. Another lawyer, Duncan Mwanyumba, says this will reduce illegal activities around the clubs and accord the strippers respect.
Mwanyumba says he and the International Federation of Women Lawyers will advocate for legal rights for strippers and prostitutes at this year's Koinange Street Festival, a carnival in Nairobi's unofficial red-light district.
Rose Odengo describes herself as a benefactor of African oral tradition. She is passionate about writing stories of Africa in order to empower disadvantaged African women in hopes of restoring their dignity to make Africa a glorious, proud, prosperous and beautiful continent. She joined Global Press Institute's Kenya News Desk in 2011.
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