Bandung girls freed from
Riau sex trade

With unwanted pregnancies, both Nia and Ria (not their real names) would return from their 1,200-kilometer, Bandung-Pekanbaru ordeal which began February, after spending three months working in a brothel in Duri, Riau.

Nia (one month pregnant) and Yuni (four months pregnant), both conceived during their time as sex workers at Bukit Indah Permai brothel in the city.

"We don't know who to ask to take responsibility for our babies, because we got pregnant with visitors we were serving at the parlor. We were supposed to work as waitresses, but in fact we were trapped and instructed to serve visitors without using any contraceptives," Nia said Saturday at Mandau police office, from where she and others would return home to Bandung, West Java.

Nia, 16, said she was offered a job as a waitress in Duri, with a monthly salary of Rp 1.5 million (approximately US$166) by a middleman who recruited them in Bandung.

"I realized I had been duped when we arrived in Duri and were forced to serve customers at the bar.

"The pimp always watched us closely. No one was allowed to go outside, but now we're free," said Nia, who left school after graduating from junior high school in her home town.

Nia and Ria were two of 20 teenagers released by the police after a crackdown on the bar early last week. A man allegedly acting as the pimp was also arrested.

"We have handed the suspect to Bandung city police. The case will be investigated there because the report was filed in Bandung," Mandau Police chief Adj. Comr. Ade Mulyana told the Post.

"We are investigating the sex trafficking network here," Mulyana added.

Another victim, Yani, 17, said she was lured into the job because her parents could no longer afford to put her in school.

According to Yani, the middlemen provided each of them with Rp 500,000 when they left Bandung. It was only later that they were told that the money was not a down payment but a loan.

"When we arrived here, the pimp who took us said we each already owed him Rp 2 million to cover transportation costs. He then forced us to serve customers, and took a cut from what we earned to pay for the debts in installments. Until now, we still owe him Rp 1 million," Yani said.

The pimp had used the debt as an excuse to hold the girls, and they "were not allowed to leave the bar until we repaid all their debts," Yani said.

"The pimp watched us closely and selected the clients to prevent them from escaping," she added.

"We were tricked, but we didn't dare run away for fear of being chased," Yani said.

The sex trafficking network was revealed when the mother (Halimah) of one of the victims (Ekawati), filed a report with the Bandung Police, May 5, stating that her daughter had been cheated and forced to become a sex worker in Duri.

Ekawati had used a customer's cell phone to call her mother and explain the situation in the parlor.

Thanks to Halimah's report, Bandung Police were able to arrest three suspects acting as brokers to recruit women in Bandung.

During the interrogation, three suspects admitted to having sent eight girls, including Eka, to Duri.

Bandung Police chief of detectives Adj. Comr. Legawa Utama and two of his subordinates then went to Duri and worked with local authorities to raid the brothel.

The officers found the eight victims originating from Cibabat and Balai Enda sub-districts (Bandung regency) working at the Telaga Indah bar.

Prior to their departure, the women gave their testimonies to the police who would use the information in court.

Mandau Police chief Adj. Comr. Ade Mulyana said preliminary investigations had shown no indications Duri being a transit point for human trafficking.

"They had intended to bring the girls here from the start. Bukit Indah Permai is not the only red light district, but there are many 'underground' locations along the Trans-Sumatra Highway offering sexual services to motorists," he said.

Mulyana said the police needed to understand that many young girls worked as sex workers in the area.

"But we must rely on reports from the public to begin our investigations. We will enhance our surveillance and investigations of reported sites, and expect the public to get involved by making reports and complaints," he said.

In many similar cases, Riau and Riau Islands have become transit points in trafficking children and women from Java Island and West Nusa Tenggara for employment as sex workers in Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.

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