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Added: Verna Kenyon - Date: 17.09.2021 08:57 - Views: 42431 - Clicks: 1815

The device may have become a lifeline in helping her move her work online during the COVID pandemic, but after a client secretly recorded their virtual sex session and leaked it onto the internet, every phone alert sends Otieno into a cold sweat. Even eight months after it happened, I still get people forwarding it to me," said the year-old mother of two who lives in Nairobi.

My partner left me and even my family won't talk to me. I thought it was a safe and private way to make money, but virtual sex ruined my life," said Otieno, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

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Across Africa, sex worker groups say there has been a surge in complaints from members who have become victims of non-consensual pornography, where sexually graphic material is posted online by their clients without their agreement. From Kenya and Uganda to Zimbabwe and Nigeria, pandemic restrictions such as lockdowns and curfews have seen sex workers shift from bars, brothels and massage parlours to websites, apps and video calls.

But using digital technology to offer their services comes with a barrage of online dangers, leaving sex workers vulnerable to blackmail and sextortion, said Grace Kamau, coordinator for the African Sex Workers Alliance ASWA. They know about precautions to take, like to inform peers of their movements and to check in at regular times," said Kamau.

It is a relatively new space for them. They don't understand the risks and how to be safe and there is no information available to sex workers about digital security and data protection. She said ASWA - a Nairobi-based network of more than sex worker-led organisations in 34 African countries - found that most sex workers did not report cases to the police for fear of being shamed and victim-blamed.

The digital abuse has led to many sex workers being shunned and isolated by friends and family, with many feeling traumatised, depressed and suicidal, Kamau added.

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Even before COVID, more than half of girls and young women had experienced online abuse, according to a global poll last year by the Web Foundation. Sharing images, videos or private information without consent - known as doxxing - was the most concerning issue, according to the February survey of more than 8, respondents. Privacy groups and women's rights advocates say the pandemic has only increased the threat. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they shared their content with someone they have never met in person. Some African countries have put in place laws criminalising digital abuse and protecting data privacy, but there is a lack of awareness among most women - especially those from marginalised groups such as sex workers, say digital rights campaigners.

Due to this lack of information, they will readily share their images and videos with clients - which are then shared across platforms like Facebook and TikTok, without their consent," she said by phone. Even if they are aware of their digital rights, sex workers are often reluctant to report crimes against them to the police as they fear they will not be taken seriously, said Nanfuka.

Lillian Gitau, a Kenyan sex worker, said she was blackmailed by a client she met on the dating app Tinder, who secretly filmed her and posted the video in chat groups on Telegram and WhatsApp. I gave him the money and he deleted the video, but I know it's still out there and is being shared," said Gitau, 30, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

They won't help women like us. Instead, they just blame us and say it is our fault for doing this work. Kenyan police officials were not immediately available for comment. Some sex workers said they have resorted to hiding their faces during video calls or when sending images to new customers. Sex worker organisations say their members need online safety training as well as legal support, but add that they lack the funding Mature women Elizabeth looking for sex provide that training.

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Nanfuka at CIPESA added that sex workers and the police also need to be educated on how to remove pictures and videos that have been posted online without permission. Even when they are taken down, they have already journeyed far and wide and the damage to the individual has been done.

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