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JAKARTA: While prostitution is technically illegal in Indonesia and immoral in the eyes of many of its people, the sex trade continues to flourish, especially in the capital Jakarta. Of these, 3, ply their trade in the centre of the capital. The total in the trade, however, is likely to be much higher, as the data does not currently capture male and transgender sex workers.
As I drive Sex at jakarta known red-light areas, the scale of the industry becomes apparent. In less than an hour, six prostitutes come forward to offer their services. We slow down and wind down the window. A longer session would set us back Rp 1.
Still, there is no specific law that penalises it, with people only facing legal action when acts are associated with other crimes. The fact that the legal status of prostitution remains a grey area has helped commercial sex to become a big business in cities such as Jakarta and Surabaya. This approach is deed to help local law enforcement officers control and monitor the thriving flesh trade more effectively, given the lack of clear laws to cover prostitution.
Dolly Lane, a former red-light district in Surabaya. It was hailed as one of the biggest such venues in Southeast Asia. Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo. In a bid to stop the flesh trade, Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa vowed in February that by Indonesia will be free from prostitution and all the red-light districts in the country will be shut down.
There are estimated to be around such districts scattered across the country. But that does not seem to have put the brakes on the sex industry. Many workers from there seem to have just moved, or gone online. As I delve deeper into how the trade continues to thrive, it becomes clear that poverty remains a key driver that le individuals and even families into prostitution. She tells me she was driven to the trade at Ratu is now 39, and her daughter Putri, 26, also works as a prostitute. Neither is proud of where they are, but they feel Sex at jakarta have no choice. There are a lot of families like ours and people are used to it.
For Putri, Ratu is more than a mother. Whatever I do, she says nothing. In school, Putri dreamed of becoming a doctor, but soon realised she would not be able to afford it. Her mother could barely pay her school fees, and she says the family constantly faced a chronic shortage of money. Being in the sex trade has helped. A space at the back of Putri's house that serves as a bathroom, toilet and kitchen. Putri tells me there are other girls who work alongside their mothers. With the closure of red-light districts in mind, the Social Affairs Ministry is now looking at ways of helping to support prostitutes who may be affected.
Each sex worker who faces eviction is now entitled to close to Rp 5. But this may not be enough. Dr Meliala tells me that the state should prepare sex workers for new lives before any eviction, by ensuring that each of them has a job to fall back on, which would allow them to provide for themselves and their family. The idea to permanently shut down red-light districts is nothing new in Indonesia.
Inclose to 1, prostitutes in Surabaya faced eviction when Gang Dolly, or Dolly Lane, an infamous network of small alleyways, once hailed as the biggest red-light district in Southeast Asia, was shut. Their facades still bear large window panes that once allowed customers to view rows of sex workers inside, before making a choice.
A deserted brothel in the notorious Dolly Lane of Surabaya.
But music has been replaced by an eerie silence. Neon lights have been taken down, and front doors are shut and chained. But Dolly Lane is far from done. Soon enough, two pimps approach, and they show us pictures of different prostitutes on their mobile phones. Sex at jakarta prostitutes have just moved away, to other remaining red-light districts such as Gang Sadar in Purwokerto, Central Java.
At night, the streets surrounding the site are dotted with pimps and customers on motorcycles, while sex workers hide among the tombs as they wait for clients in the dark. Sam turns away from the cemetery. The migration of prostitution to an underground market has raised concerns among some Indonesian authorities, who now fear the nationwide closure of red-light districts would bring new risks. Statues at an old brothel in Dolly Lane, which was shut down in Still the flesh trade continues to thrive secretly.
This concern is shared by Dr Meliala, who believes the closure of red-light districts could be premature. He thinks the assumption that sex workers would return to their hometowns once the red-light districts are closed is wrong. For him, the equation is simple. Their move to become prostitutes had been borne from their desire to escape from poverty in the first place.
But Ratu and Putri tell me the plan will not work. Both are on their way to work. Ratu has one final word with me before heading off. Things will always be the same. Click to watch Part 2 and Part 3. Skip Jump to Main.Sex at jakarta
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Prostitution in Indonesia