Commercial sex workers in some parts of Nairobi have ditched the miniskirt for the Hijab to lure men, a move that has sparked condemnation from Muslim clerics.
The Hijab — worn by Muslim women — is a symbol of piety but sex workers in Eastleigh use it to make men believe that the women they are picking up are either Muslim or from the Coast. Some men also associate it with Ethiopian and Eritrean women.
Investigations by the Nation revealed that non-Muslim sex workers are wearing the veil to attract men who believe they are less promiscuous than those who put on miniskirts.
Nairobi’s Jamia Mosque Imam, Mohamed Swalihu, said he was aware that the Hijab was being abused.
“It is sad and incredible; but it is unfortunately true,” he said. “It is very unfortunate that we see Hijabs being misused by commercial sex workers who are non-Muslims. It is satanic and should be condemned in the strongest terms possible.”
He said even men had started using the Hijab for criminal activities.
He said it was sad for Muslim women to enter into prostitution which is contrary to every teaching in Islam.
But the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance defended the sex workers who were conducting their trade in Hijabs saying they were doing business in line with their clients’ demands.
The co-ordinator of the alliance, Ms Phelister Abdalla, asked the government to decriminalise commercial sex work, citing high unemployment levels.
“We want it to be treated like any other profession. Most of us depend on it,” she said.
Interviews with sex workers at Eastleigh established that men were no longer interested in women who wear miniskirts. Instead, they prefer women from Ethiopia and Muslims.
One sex worker who chose not to be named said she bought two hijabs which she uses only when she is waiting for clients. She also uses make-up to lighten her complexion.
According to her, Hijab-wearing sex workers charge the highest prices and have the highest number of pick-ups.
Random interviews with some of the commercial sex workers revealed that men perceive Hijab-wearing women as more “pure” than the other sex workers. They also perceive them to be less sexually active.
One sex worker said male clients prefer Ethiopian women and the easiest way to spot one was by the colour of the skin and a Hijab. A sex worker who fits the description can earn up to three times more than one who doesn’t.
One way that the sex workers camouflage their true complexions is by using red or blue lighting once they get to their hotel rooms.
The choice of perfume is also used to create the impression that they are Muslim women even when they are not.
On 12th Street, a host of Hijab-wearing sex workers will be spotted from 8pm.-nation.co.ke