Tobin Jones Photography Logo
Tobin Jones Instagram Tobin Jones Twitter Tobin Jones Twitter

Often touted as the world’s oldest profession, prostitution has been around in one form or another for almost as long as man himself. Today the profession continues to thrive, from the high class call girls that cater to the highest echelons of society down to those that scratch a living catering to the needs of some of the world’s poorest.

Kibera is one of Africa’s largest slums and home to as many as one million of Nairobi, Kenya’s poor. Prostitution in such a place therefore represents the lowest rung in a community already on the lowest rung of society itself. The services of prostitutes here can be bought for as little as Ksh80/- (US$1) or even less depending on how desperate they are to eat that day. For this, they risk contracting HIV, unwanted pregnancies, and violent abuse from their customers.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_01.jpg

Mama Africa, a prostitute in Kibera, smokes a cigarette while waiting for clients to arrive at a local bar in the Nairobi slum.

Kibera, an informal settlement on the edges of Nairobi, is home to thousands of bars – often little more than a tin shed – which cater to the slum’s almost one million residents. It is in these bars that many of Kibera’s prostitutes wait, hoping to meet a client with money to spare.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_02.jpg

Children look in through a window at one of Kibera’s many bars after a rainstorm.

Thousands of bars can be found in Kibera, each consisting of little more than a few walls and a roof thrown together with some old tin. Bar licenses in the slum are non-existent, though sometimes policemen have to be bribed in order for them to keep operating.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_03.jpg

One of Kibera’s prostitutes sips on a beer as she tries to fight the boredom of the day ahead of the evening rush which will see the returning of men from work and potential clients.

For the most part Kibera empties out each day, as its residents leave in search of work, leaving only the unemployed and children behind. As a result there is little for prostitutes to do in the way of work, but wait for those with money to return in the evenings.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_04.jpg

An owner of one of Kibera’s bars stands in front of her makeshift bar, erected out of old plywood and a metal grill to prevent anyone from robbing her of drinks or her hard earned money.

For those who can, opening a bar can be a profitable business. Often owners of bars will freely allow prostitutes to work on their premises, knowing that by having girls more men will be enticed to come to their bar.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_05.jpg

A young man smokes a joint as a prostitute behind him looks out a window for any customer who may have money to pay her.

Like it is for sex workers around the world, substance abuse among those working in Kibera is also high. Most common are marijuana and changa’a, an illicit brew made by those in the slum.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_06.jpg

A young man with two prostitutes smokes a cigarette and drinks changa’a in a small tin shed in Kibera.

Sometimes bars are not even operated out of proper establishments, but rather out of rooms themselves, meaning little is needed to entice a client back to a house.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_07.jpg

A prostitute and one of her longtime clients fool around in a house behind one of Kibera’s bars.

Prostitutes in Kibera can charge anywhere from 500 shillings ($6) to as little as 50 shillings ($0.5), if they’re desperate enough.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_08.jpg

A young woman in Kibera shows off her scars, one from a bottle broken over her head and another from a knife wound, sustained from domestic violence after men refused to pay her for sex.

Unlike many places, where prostitutes operate out of brothels or have a pimp who control’s them, Kibera’s system is much less organized. On one hand this means more money for the prostitute, but on another hand it means the women are much more susceptible to violence.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_09.jpg

A child poses for the camera along with her mother and her half-brother, in the one bedroom room that is their home.

While the threat of HIV is always apparent working in a place like Kibera, pregnancy is another inevitable consequence, often causing women to have several children each with a different father.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_10.jpg

Two prostitutes lie on the bed they share in a small room they’ve rented that acts as both their home and a place to bring back clients.

While rent in Kibera is relatively cheap, it is still too much for many of the slum’s residents. As a result many prostitutes will share the same bed, taking turns in it when they have clients.

 
http://tobinjonesphotography.com/files/gimgs/th-21_tobin_jones_brothel_11.jpg

People walk through the streets of Kibera as darkness descends on the slum, which is brought to life every night as its hundreds of thousands of residences walk through its streets on their way back from working in the city.