Prostitutes face harder
life in Batam

Fadli, The Jakarta Post/Batam

""Santi"", 23, a sex worker in Batam, complained that fewer clients had visited her over the past few months.

""Malaysian and Singaporean tourists aren't turning up any more and spending money at my place,"" said Santi, a masseur cum sex worker hailing from West Java. Santi works as a masseur in a massage parlor in the Nagoya Business Center.

""The situation is very different compared to four years ago. Then, I provided services for at least two clients a day, but now it is now very difficult to get two customers even in a week,"" said Santi.

Santi is among 50 sex workers working in the massage parlor. Aged between 18 and 30 years, they are displayed in a 5x6 meter glass room for viewing by customers.

The prostitutes come from various regions in Java and Sumatra, and some are of Chinese descent.

Santi said that each client who booked her had to pay Rp 250,000 (US$28) to the massage parlor for an overnight ""long"" service, and Rp 150,000 for a ""short"" service.

Of this, she received Rp 100,000 for the long service, and Rp 50,000 for the short service.

""I rely more on the customer's tip. They usually give us big tips, especially clients from Malaysia and Singapore,"" said Santi.

But, the good old days may have passed. The number of clients visiting massage parlors in Batam had started declining some months ago, which has affected incomes for both the prostitutes and the owners of the premises.

At least three massage parlors in the business center had closed down over the past few months.

Santi recalled that when she first came to Batam four years ago she could make Rp 1 million a week, but now she was only earning Rp 200,000 a week.

The slowdown in business was also affecting ""Lastri"", another prostitute at a different massage parlor in the business center.

Lastri said that she used to earn at least Rp 100,000 a day, but recently she could only earn half that amount.

There is no clear reason for the decline in Batam's prostitution business, however, a government official on the island said that a high-profile campaign on HIV/AIDS could be a factor.

In a separate development, the head of Social Office at the Batam administration, Rayanis Aminah, said that the local government had imposed strict new measures recently to prevent more prostitutes from coming to the city.

Under a mayoral decree issued recently, newcomers to Batam had to register with the Batam mayoralty administration and are only allowed to stay and work on the island after they have convinced government officials that they had a ""clear purpose"" in being there, said Rayanis.

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