Spotlight: The Economics of Child Prostitutes in Gulu – David Martin Aliker Expounds.


Guest Post I Martin Aliker I N24Newsroom – Next Broadcasting Services (NBS) released a documentary titled, “Haunted by the past “focusing on child prostitutes at Buganda Pub in Gulu.

Why is Buganda Pub in Gulu and not in Buganda, central Uganda? In Africa, names bear meaning and identities of places and people.

Buganda Pub is found at the heart of Gulu town and is believed to derive its name from high influx of internal economic migrants within Uganda whose preference bears identity with Buganda.

Previously, the business was known as OPit Pub; part of a business empire realizing its name from the village of origin of its proprietor.

As a result of Gulu’s urbanization, Luganda speaking internal immigrants from majorly Buganda(central Uganda) found a home and Luganda became a reliable business language in this pub.

The narrative is collaborated by Elder Sheikh Musa Khalil of Gulu mosque in his testimony to NBS investigative documentary, Haunted by the Past by Benson Ongom when he refers to it as coordinated movement of child prostitutes from neighboring districts.

Unconfirmed narratives in town is that the majorly visiting Luganda speaking bar tenders are periodically reshuffled as incentive to its patrons as a points of contact with patrons who invest in commercial after sales sex.

Similarly, the rooms in its guests wings are monthly or perennially hired and sub-rented hourly or on a daily basis for commercial sex purpose by regular patrons to much poorer clients-in this case child prostitutes for quick sex or on a good day whole night for a slightly higher fee as confirmed in the NBS documentary.

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is one of the most hidden, complex and corrosive Worst Forms of Child Labour, identified to be persistent in Uganda.

Since 2004, when the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development (MoGLSD) conducted a thematic study on CSEC in Uganda, little more has been learned about the trends, magnitude and levels of interventions.

The International Labor Organisation (ILO) defines child prostitution as the use of girls and boys in sexual activities, remunerated in cash or in kind.

It is among the numerous acts of commercial sexual exploitation of children .

According to ILO there are 7,000 to 12,000 children involved in prostitution in Uganda.

This articles therefore explores the economics of child prostitutes in Gulu borrowing from different reports from different media agencies and publicly known experiences in Gulu.

According to a research titled ‘A study of community-based child protection mechanisms in a fishing community in central Uganda’ conducted by Africhild, an African research centre on children affairs at Makerere University in 2015, it reveals that although there are older prostitutes, many clients prefer young girls because they charge less. Whereas an adult may charge Shs8,000, a child’s ‘service’ is as low as Shs1,000,” the report reads in part.

This findings seem familiar with experiences of child  prostitutes in Gulu.
At night fall, the report adds in part, that “girls wearing short skirts go to disco halls, bars, lodges and film halls and are bought by older men. The younger boys also engage in commercial sex as the buyers, with older sex workers.”

The report further adds that adult men tend to like young girls due to their developing breasts and buttocks as these allegedly boost their libido.

This confirms details in the documentary as entrance fee is only Shs.2000 and the child prostitutes in the documentary asked for only Shs.10,000 for quick sex and 25,000 for the whole night.

As discussed above, the bar therefore serves as sales points and those who can’t afford Shs.2000 line up late evening the streets of Gulu waiting for customers.

As an illicit hidden, complex and corrosive Worst Forms of Child Labour, identified to be persistent in Uganda; an internal upfront hired accommodation facility confirms the hidden and complex nature of
the business.

In this instance therefore, business proprietors climax on their profits from beer sales, entrance to  premises and room hire .

Motivations for Child Prostitution:
Prevalence of child prostitution is linked to a number of factors, including overexposure of children to pornography, inadequate education opportunities, low social status of women and girls, poverty and unemployment.

The Role of Pimps
It is apparent that most of the child prostitutes who had enrolled in school, have dropped out in order to make ends meet. They have chosen to drop out to pursue a living on the fringes of society, exploited by unscrupulous pimps and overexposed to sexually transmitted diseases.

A common case in point is that most pimps are called Madam or Mum and in other instances referred to as Aunties who work in collaboration with bar and lodge owners.

These Pimps provide shelter, food and a little money for personal care so that the girls were clean enough to gain the attention of men. This fares are all realized from their night fees with older men.

At dusk, the sex clients congregate in their home, or in a nearby bar.The madam carefully makes it known that she has young girls for sexual hire, the rate strictly is determined by the length of time the customer will spend with the girl.

One night could bring in as much as sh5,000-sh10,000. The girls are carefully coached to say they are aged 15 or older.

With negotiations concluded, and money paid to the pimp, the girl walks away with the client for the evening, often returning in the morning after a night of sexual favours. Madam, meanwhile, is already at work arranging for other clients.

It is common for a girl to spend the night with three or four different men, some of them students from nearby secondary schools, while others are men in transit to southern Sudan or  nearby business districts who need quick sexual fix with girls half their age. A girl is lucky if she receives Shs.5000 or Shs.10,000 for a night of hard work.

In a report that was released by Women and Youth Services in 2002, long distance truck drivers were cited among the biggest users of child prostitutes. Child prostitution was found to be common in truck
drivers stopover towns.

Another report compiled by Migyera Youths Development Center, a community based organization shows that about 100 children aged between 13-17 years are involved in commercial sex.

The commercial sex workers target commercial truck drivers plying the Kampala-Gulu and Juba routes.

Migyera is a first growing town council and popular stopover for commercial truck drivers found along the Kampala – Gulu highway and a hub for commercial sex workers.

Most of the commercial sex takes place in lodges, while a few do it in open hideouts or in trucks.

In this case, Gulu as a regional business hub is a transit route to Kampala, Southern Sudan through Elegu border points, Congo through Arua border points and Moroto and Kotido Districts.

In the event that the child prostitutes are offering escort services out of town, the rates are slightly much higher from 50,000 to 100,000.

The increased rates are to take care of unforeseen situations like a bad client may turn to be a source of insecurity.

This extra money will meet any cost required at police ranging from bail applications which mandatorily are to be free but seem to require unaccounted cost attached to it and the possibility of hiring legal
services if required for their safety. One can have more than 10 girls under her management.

Challenges facing interventions include; poor law enforcement both by police and courts of law, stigmatization which pushes the children into hiding, low advocacy for issues related to CSEC at national level to influence policy and funding, limited capacity of staff to provide psycho-social support to clients.

Ending Child Prostitution:

Although government through the Ministry of Gender developed the National Action Plan on elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Uganda, which forbids involvement of children in commercial sex exploitation, the vice is still rampant.

There is now a need to track progress by following up on the issues of CSEC at grassroots and policy levels and to provide accountability in the public sector as well as private initiatives to the numerous causes, factors and intervention since the earlier studies.

Civil Society have put up programs to cater for the increasing number of child prostitutes. This involves blocking child trafficking, sensitizing the community of dangers in prostitution and helping disburse the child prostitutes to rehabilitation centres.

District Local Governments need to come up with bi-laws that uniquely address their unique concerns especially child prostitution inpost conflict Gulu and northern Uganda.

There is need for bi-laws that bans Child prostitution and their access to public bars and lodges ,flooding the highway and restricting their work to the night to protect other children.

Community-based child protection mechanisms (CBCPMs) are fast becoming important responses in addressing child protection concerns.
Components of CBCPMs include people, groups and networks that exist in the communities. Despite the existence of the probation and welfare office and the community development office that create child protection committees, communities are oblivious of their existence.

Moreover, families prefer handling cases on their own rather than reporting to the police. They only report when there is breach of agreement between the family and perpetuator.

The dire situation communicates that utilization of these community child protection mechanisms remains the practical solution to children and families seeking redress over child protection violations.
Conclusively, For His Glory,

Written by, David Martin Aliker is a scholar and an ardent writer on social affairs. You can connect with him on Twitter: 

This has come with the launch of a special online campaign…. #EndChildProstitution


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here