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Jakarta Post

Red-light district closures alarm locals

  • Ainur Rohmah

    The Jakarta Post

Semarang   /   Sat, July 6, 2013   /  10:05 am

A plan by the Social Affairs Ministry to close down 50 red-light districts across Indonesia has caused nervousness among inhabitants of the Argorejo red-light district, or Sunan Kuning as it is more popularly known, in Semarang, Central Java.

Sunan Kuning is one of the ministry'€™s five main targets in a crackdown on prostitution. The other four are Saritem in Bandung, West Java; Pasar Kembang in Yogyakarta; Dolly in Surabaya, East Java, and Banyuwangi, also in East Java.

'€œNervousness has been high in Sunan Kuning ever since we heard about the plan in May,'€ Ari Istiyadi, field coordinator of NGO Griya Asa PKBI Semarang, which has been monitoring Sunan Kuning, said in Semarang
on Thursday.

Ari expressed his fear that the closure of the prostitution center would create new problems in the social and health fields. Among the impacts that could be felt from the closure was pushing prostitution underground.

'€œThe impact may be worse because they [prostitutes] would start operating without control from the red-light district'€™s management,'€ Ari said.

Sunan Kuning currently has 689 commercial sex workers who operate in hundreds of brothels in the location.

Ari said that Sunan Kuning was established in 2003, partly as a way to prevent illegal street prostitution, which was previously found along Semarang'€™s roads, such as Simpang Lima, Jl. Gajahmada, Jl. Pahlawan, Jl. Pandanaran, Jl. A Yani, Jl. Pemuda and Jl. Imam Bonjol.

The Semarang city administration issued in 2003 a policy to relocate the prostitutes to Sunan Kuning, making it easier for the administration to control their health and security as well as help them find other ways of earning a living.

Ari added that red-light districts could not just be dismissed, as they followed the same market economy law as all other businesses. As long as demand still existed, the '€œgoods'€ would still be sold.

Indonesia has been recorded as having some 6.7 million men who actively use prostitutes'€™ services, while the number of prostitutes totals around 270,000.

Sunan Kuning chairman Suwandi said that Sunan Kuning not only functioned as a red-light area but also as a resocialization and rehabilitation center.

As a resocialization center, Sunan Kuning helps prepare prostitutes to return to their communities by, among other things, offering them vocational training in other skills and strengthening their spiritual beliefs.

As a rehabilitation center, Sunan Kuning helps its inhabitants to avoid infectious sexual diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

'€œWe help the women by providing them with trainings in entrepreneurship. We also encourage them to get in the habit of saving to help them become economically independent so that they no longer need to work as prostitutes,'€ Suwandi said.

He also said that closing red-light districts would be counterproductive to the government'€™s efforts to slow down the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexual diseases. '€œWe urge the government to reconsider this policy,'€ he said.

Previously, Central Java Health Agency head Anung Sugihantono said that if Sunan Kuning was closed down, tracing the spread of HIV/AIDS would be more difficult because commercial sex workers'€™ activities would be much harder to monitor.

He said Sunan Kuning had been a control point for the spread of HIV/AIDS. Increases in the number of infections were easy to locate and handle.

The health agency recorded 166 new cases of HIV infection and 175 cases of AIDS across Central Java as of the end of the first quarter of this year.

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