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Zanzibar: Where women come to buy sex

February 12, 2012 5 comments

Zanzibar: A favorite tourist destination with European women for one reason. Sexual services by eager African men for money.

Fake fancy Maasai, Stonetown, Tanzania  |  Image source and courtesy - travelpod.com  |  Click or source image.

Fake fancy Maasai, Stonetown, Tanzania | Image source and courtesy - travelpod.com | Click or source image.

Less known

Commercial sex provided by women is well understood and covered by media.

Much less discussed and known is commercial sex bought by women.

Probably the global capital of this industry are the beaches of Zanzibar – an autonomous region of Tanzania.

European women

tourists come here, “have fun” the week or two weeks they’re here by exploiting young men or women eager to earn some money. Perhaps I should be more explicit about the nature of the exploitation tourists bring here. The disturbing fact is that many tourists come here and rent “guides” who are nothing more than sex workers. Most of the sex workers, believe it or not, are young men, who have no good education or job prospect. And it is the women from Europe (mostly) who come here to have fun with these young, hungry men. If pedophile men from Europe and North America go to Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to have sex with children, women from Europe and North America come here to Zanzibar to do the same (although technically consensual) thing. You know that shy woman (perhaps her name is Cheryl) sitting in the next cubical workstation who seems to avoid humanity is not so shy when she takes her vacation in Zanzibar.(via Zanzibar: Paradise in Peril (Take that CNN!) « The East African Philosopher).

sex tourism that I’ve seen in the island is a strange phenomenon of the overall tourism trend in the island. First, most people don’t call it sex tourism because the predominant tourists who engage in the exchange of sex for benefit (whether money, food or other gifts, or a combination) are women. If the majority of the people that were doing this were men then you would have already seen the outrage in the press and government crackdown. Second, since these tourists “rent” beach boys (again, it is very hard for men to get away with this as easily as the women) as a local guide, the sex part isn’t obvious but is an acknowledged fact. Thirdly, the majority of these men are outsiders i.e. from the mainland, being with a beach boy and using a beach boy is not a big deal anymore. It is just something that happens and has that feel of “if it is not my brother, son, uncle, etc doing then it is not my problem” attitude. (via Zanzibar: Paradise in Peril (Take that CNN!) « The East African Philosopher).

A Fake Masai Warrior targets 'weak' European women on Zanzibar's beaches  |  Image by Lotte Vermeij; courtesy - radionetherlands.nl  |  Click for source image.

A Fake Masai Warrior targets 'weak' European women on Zanzibar's beaches | Image by Lotte Vermeij; courtesy - radionetherlands.nl | Click for source image.

Lovelorn and ‘money-lorn’

Women from West Europe, especially from Italy, Netherlands support Zanzibar’s thriving commercial sex industry.

Young African men, sometimes just children, are the main suppliers of sex. Locally known as mzungu women, it comes from the Swahili word for “white people”, derived from Mzungu kati meaning “wandering around in circles, going nowhere.”

Urban legends?

Masai tribesmen have acquired a reputation with mzungu women for their ‘performance’. Young boys, wishing to snare mzungu women in Zanzibar, cultivate Masai get-ups.

Especially, after story of ‘The White Masai’.

Corinne Hofmann, a Swiss tourist in 1986, then 26 years, dumped her boyfriend, and married Lketinga, a Masai, who danced for tourists. In 1998, her book, ‘The White Masai‘ was published in 1998, and achieved commercial success. Translated into more than 15 languages, ‘The White Masai‘ was made into a film, Die Weisse Massai (The White Massai) in 2004.

Still from the film, The White Masai  |  Image source& courtesy - powerofculture.nl  |  Click for source image.

Still from the film, The White Masai | Image source& courtesy - powerofculture.nl | Click for source image.

Understandably, ‘usage’ in these cases is a two-way street.

Corrinne Hofmann earned millions from this ‘adventure’. Her Masai husband got some money – from his ‘generous’ wife.

But, if you believe Western media, it is the clever African men, who ‘exploit’ these weak European women.

Business as usual

Travel agencies around Africa, not very discreetly, promote this kind of tourism.

Western media, specifically English, has maintained a stoic silence, mostly – with a patronizing advice sometimes.

As can be expected, drugs are a part of the local scene.


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