"We used to feel awkward when passing Warung Kaleng in Sampay, a hangout for dangdut with their revealing dresses. Now we find it hard to recognize prostitutes because most dress decently like we do, some even with long dresses and veils," said Itoh, 48, a Sampay resident.
Generally, noted Itoh, the women working as dangdut do not come from Bogor.
"Most are Cianjur, Cimahi and Garut women, who are unofficially married to Arabs. Local residents following in their footsteps would have been expelled from the village for causing such a disgrace."
North Tugu Village head Jajat Sudrajat said the two villages only served as honeymoon locations for Arab tourists, once they had been unofficially married in other areas.
"We have no idea if some of them have secretly made such contracts *short-term unofficial marriages* in certain villas here, but no local residents are engaged *in this activity*. The women accompanying them are mostly from Cianjur, Garut, Cimahi, with contract marriages also involving maids who used to work in Arab countries."
South Tugu Village head Rusli Doelbari concurred. Though the Arab tourist season peaks from May to July, around 100 to 200 Arab tourists visit the area each month. Both villages are a transit location where Arab visitors stay and enjoy the surrounding natural scenery.
"Even if they come with women, they may have unofficially been married somewhere else, or in some villas here without our knowledge. However no women in this village are in unofficial marriages with Arab tourists," Rusli said.
While some may see Arab tourism as a positive for the area, with Arabs contributing to the local economy by spending money in the region, helping fund the construction of mosques in South Tugu, renting cars or employing Arab taxi drivers, massage workers, motorcycle taxi drivers, and housewives to cook their meals and wash their clothes, the image of the neighborhood has without a doubt been tarnished.
It is common knowledge unregistered marriages allegedly take place in both villages, creating an image they find difficult to eliminate.
"So we have since 2009 been providing public information on Fridays to encourage people to get married the legal way, because the absence of proper legal foundations will eventually harm our descendants," Rusli said.
On a separate occasion, the head of the Islamic Affairs section in Bogor City's Religious Affairs Office, Sufyan Suri, admitted quite a lot of citizens from Bogor were bound by nikah siri as well as secret marriages (between Indonesian nationals), as indicated by the high enthusiasm of such pairs joining mass wedding ceremonies during Bogor's anniversary celebrations.
"Annual mass weddings held in Bogor's City Hall Mosque have taken place for seven years, as a manifestation of Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto's care for disadvantaged people, who can't afford to officially register their marriages. In June 2009, 40 couples joined the ceremonies. Our office has no annual data because of the secretive nature of such contractual weddings," he said.
Sufyan hoped the Bogor city administration would continue to organize mass weddings throughout 2010, to enable low-income citizens to officially tie the knot, give them some sort of legal certainty and save themselves many problems down the line.
- JP/Theresia Sufa