The literature on the role of policy on prostitution has focused on criminal law, largely ignoring economic and urban policies. This article examines the emergence and development of prostitution in Kibera—an informal urban settlement in Nairobi, Kenya—and the role played by government policy. Records show that a rapid growth in prostitution accompanied Kibera’s transition from a military exercise ground to an informal settlement. Drawing on primary and secondary historical sources, this paper argues that colonial government policies of land alienation, taxation, and inequitable urban housing created a social context that promoted the migration of women into Nairobi and into Kibera, with many turning to prostitution. This paper therefore highlights an important but understudied role of economic and urban policies on prostitution.

Author Biography

Felix M. Muchomba, Columbia University, New York, NY.