Case unravels secrets of city 'massage parlours'

Massage therapy [iStockphoto]

Before her arrest in 2022, Hanifah Nanyange ran a ‘massage parlour’ at Grace Villa bar and restaurant in Ngara, Nairobi.

From the outside, it looked like the men who frequented the place went there for drinks.

And to those who knew about the massage sessions in room J1 and J2, they thought massage was the only service being offered.

However, a case against Nanyange has revealed that all those who paid for ‘massage’ from the many girls at the parlour, kept her sex trafficking well-oiled. 

Aggie* (not her real name) was born and raised in remote Uganda. She had not experienced city life until Nanyange invited her to Nairobi.

In court, she could barely speak English or Kiswahili.

She testified before Kahawa Principal Magistrate Gideon Kiage that the businesswoman offered her a job in a massage parlour.

Nanyange also gave her UG shillings 150,000 (Sh5,132) to cater for transport to Kenya.

Nanyange used Aggie to lure other girls to the job. Aggie* persuaded her friend Jannie* (also not her real name) to accompany her to Nairobi.

How it happened

She dangled Sh10,000 salary to lure the girls.

The girls left Uganda on October 10, 2022 by bus and arrived the following morning in Nairobi. Nanyange took them to Ngara.

The Director of Public Prosecution, through prosecutor Kelvin Kamau, called 15 witnesses. Three were victims of sex trafficking.

“The first accused having invited them to the country on the pretext of offering them employment exploited them in the most degradable way imaginable,” said the magistrate.

Nanyange took away their Ugandan national identity cards, mobile phones and directed them to undress. She massaged the girls to demonstrated what was expected of them.

However, it turned out that their work was not just about being masseuses. She demanded that whenever they massaged a client and he became sexually aroused, they ought to do whatever he wanted.

Nanyange did not let the girls rest even for a day. She gave Aggie* the name ‘Celine’ as well as clothes to wear on the job. She then ushered in the first client.

The man who was with Aggie demanded that she catwalks for him.

In her testimony, she said she was instructed to never leave the building.

Aggie said she was forced to perform oral and unprotected sex. She narrated that she was made to sleep with at least two men daily against her will.

As the girls endured the sex slavery, Nanganye made millions. She had rented the two rooms for Sh100,000 a month.

Aggie was never paid the Sh10,000 she had been promised nor did her parents get the money they had been promised.

Nanyange released her identification documents after she was arrested in November 2022.

Other than Aggie* and Jannie*, there was a third victim code-named Agnes*. She had come to Kenya earlier on January 10, 2022.

Agnes* learnt about the job offer from a friend called Sharon.

Agnes was put in a truck to Nairobi and Nanganye paid for it.

When she arrived in Nairobi, she learned that the job she had been promised was not the same one she was expected to do.

She stated that the woman paid her between Sh3,500 and Sh4000 a week and  deducted the fare she paid the truck driver to bring her to Nairobi.

Agnes* narrated that she was forced to engage in sex with Nanyange’s clients and if she refused, the woman would tongue lash her.

A 2023 trafficking in persons report by US indicated that Kenya does not fully meet the standards for eliminating trafficking. However, it indicated that the country is trying and has remained in tier two in terms of compliance.

In 2022, security agencies investigated 111 cases of trafficking. Out of this, 59 were of sex trafficking while 10 were about labour trafficking. The others were 42 unspecified forms of trafficking.

Data indicates that there was a surge from 2021 where 47 cases were investigated. 

According to the report, truck drivers and fishermen in Lake Victoria were used to ferry victims of trafficking.

The report recommended that the country should do away with fining those caught for sex trafficking offences.

Before Agnes*, there was yet another Ugandan girl code-named Janet*.

The first client to be sent to Agnes* stripped naked. He then demanded that she should do the same.

At this time, the frightened girl ran to Nanyange hoping to get protection. However, the employer shouted at her saying that was the job she was brought to Kenya to do.

David Njuguna, the owner of Grace Villa also testified. He told court that Nanganye rented rooms J1 and J2 for Sh100,000 a month.

Nanyange had been charged alongside Esther Matheka, the manager of Tikis Bar located on the first floor of Grace Villa. Matheka said she knew nothing about Nanganye’s business.

Nanyange told court that Agnes worked for more than two years without complaining and later she went to Uganda to look after a sick child. She claimed that the girl returned because she needed a job and could not secure one in Uganda.

In the end, the magistrate acquitted Matheka but ordered Nanganye to be jailed for 20 years or pay Sh20 million fine.


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