Sex for fish is a form of transactional sex where fish mongers exchange sexual favors with fishermen in to get fish. Along Lake Victoria, the fish business is divided by gender. Men own boats and go fishing whereas women buy fish from them to sell at the markets. The fisherman who receives most sexual favors would grant sale at reduced prices to the women.
In the local language, Luo, the practice is called jaboya. Boya is the word for the plastic floater attached to the edge of a fishing net, ‘ Ja’ means "mine." The term is also used as a nickname for the fisherman who is part of the exchange.
The fish population in Lake Vitoria has been dwindling in the recent past because of overfishing and other environmental challenges, this has left business within the fish value chain to scramble for fish supply.
This challenges around the lake has led vulnerable women and young girls who are unable to pay for fish, end up using means of sex to obtain such with the fisherman to secure their supply of fish, often out of coercion. Young girls are also not excluded.
The most vulnerable victims are economically disadvantaged women, e.g. Young women, single, divorced women, as well as widows, residing on the shores of the lake.
The cycle of poverty and vulnerability forces older women to introduce their young daughters or orphaned girls to the sex for fish trade. In return, the young girl has sexual relations with the fisherman.
It is said that sex for fish contributes to the high HIV/AIDS prevalence along the lake region, where it is double the national average. Several social-economic factors including poverty, cultural practices, and competition among women who are involved in fish trade are often listed as variables fueling the sex for fish practice.
Over the years RTSEF has offered over 500 scholarships for children from vulnerable background to attend school. This is our way of helping curb this chronic problem! We believe in the words Horace Mann which says… “Education, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance- wheel of the social machinery.”