Prostitutes, hotels work
hand in glove in Baturaden

Most of the 300 hotels in the Baturaden resort area of Banyumas, Central Java, draw on the area's two red-light districts as a valuable source of income, says a tourism official.

Without the sex workers from the notorious red-light areas of Gang Sadar (GS) I and II, hundreds of hotels in Baturaden would go out of business, said Tekad Santoso, head of the Baturaden Tourism Community Association.

"Hotels here prosper and add more rooms thanks to support from GS," he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He added 99 percent of some 300 hotels in Baturaden were modest lodges offering rooms at up to Rp 100,000 (US$9) per day.

However, most rooms are usually rented out for a short time (around two hours) at an average rate of Rp 50,000. There are only two star-rated hotels in Baturaden, which Tekad said served visitors from outside the area and did not offer a "short-time" rate.

The modest inns stand to gain huge profits thanks to the presence of some 200 sex workers operating in the area and the good rapport between them and hotel employees, Tekad said.

"You just have to ask the hotel employees to fetch a girl if you stay at a hotel in Baturaden. She'll be in your room within five minutes," said Tekad, adding a sex worker there could serve four to five clients each day.

"Just calculate: a short-time session costs a minimum Rp 100,000; now multiply that by five and again by 200. Imagine how much money is circulating in the sex industry in Baturaden daily, not to mention earnings for ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers, food stalls and nightspots," he said.

Each time the local administration closed down the brothels during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, he went on, it became apparent Baturaden depended heavily on the presence of the sex workers.

"Hotels would be empty and ojek drivers would make no money. Baturaden can't be separated from GS. It's a fact, and it's not because I'm in favor of their presence," he stressed.

Parjono, 34, a security guard at one such inn, said all 20 rooms were occupied on short-time rates of Rp 50,000 every day.

He said each room could be occupied up to four times a day.

"People seldom stay the night, only a short time. Some bring their own partners, while others ask us to fetch them from GS," Parjono said.

Sherly, 20, a sex worker who hails from Cilacap, told the Post she could get up to seven bookings daily at Rp 100,000 per session.

"Yes, I usually work around here. What do you prefer Mas (big brother)? I'll give you a bonus later, OK?" she teased.

Another sex worker, Dewi, 23, from Wonosobo, said she could serve up to five customers a day.

"Good service is the name of the game here. If you can satisfy your clients, you'll get more jobs," she explained.

A female pimp at GS, who wished to be identified only as SH, 40, said around 30 female pimps managed the sex workers in Baturaden.

"Each of them oversees up to 10 girls. Those who provide the best services get the most customers. We don't operate by taking turns. However, we don't serve clients after midnight -- it's hard on the girls," she said.

Tekad said tour operators in Baturaden were in a dilemma over the symbiosis between the hotels and the sex workers.

"On one hand, prostitution provides sustenance for many people here; but on the other hand, it is blamed for the spread of HIV/AIDS, because Banyumas has the second highest number of HIV/AIDS cases after the provincial capital of Semarang," he said.

Despite conclusive studies that link the spread of HIV/AIDS to sex workers at GS, Tekad insisted the presence of the red-light district was most likely a factor, simply because it was easily accessible to anyone.

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