The Jakarta Post
Respecting the President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo administration’s desire to ban commercial sex, several prostitution areas closed just days before the start of Islamic fasting month of Ramadhan.
Gang Sadar, a prostitution area in Banyumas, Central Java, decided to close its operations for a month, starting on June 3, ordering approximately 350 sex workers to return to their hometowns.
“For about a month there will be no activities here. There will be night watch to maintain security,” said the area’s leader, Amir Ma’ruf, on Thursday.
He said that every worker would receive a bonus due to their hard work throughout the year.
“We may distribute around Rp 300 million [US$21,986] in savings, depending on their efforts,” said Amir.
The government recently announced its tough stance on prostitution. Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said the ministry planned to close a total of 168 red-light districts by 2019.
As of February, the government had closed down 68 red-light districts, including Kalijodo in Jakarta, one of the country’s oldest and largest prostitution areas.
During Ramadhan, prostitution areas, brothels and night-clubs are often targeted by hardline Islamic groups alleging that prostitution disrupts the religious rituals performed by Muslims.
Amir acknowledged that the one-month closure would affect the workers’ incomes, adding that several prostitutes from Gang Sadar had protested the closure but he explained that he had no choice.
“In previous years, we closed during the day throughout the fasting month, but we have been asked to leave for a month. We don’t know why. How are we going to feed ourselves?” said Yuni (not her real name), 24, who came to work at Gang Sadar from Ciamis, West Java.
“[Clerics] said we should live a balanced life, for now and the afterlife. We also fast during the day. But we need to work to survive.”
Bunga (not her real name), 20, voiced her disappointment over the closure, explaining that, as a consequence, she would have less money to take home for the Idul Fitri holiday at the end of the fasting month. She is worried that she will not be able to support her family in Cirebon, West Java.
“We prefer the usual arrangement, like last year. We also fast during the day, it’s a custom. But we were free during the night,” she said.
During a visit to Bayur, a prostitution area in Samarinda on Tuesday, Khofifah officially closed 22 redlight districts in East Kalimantan.
She claimed that, once all commercial sex districts in West Java were officially closed, with more than 1,500 sex workers, East Kalimantan would be the province with the highest number of red-light districts.
“Based on ministry data, West Java has the largest number of prostitutes and East Kalimantan is second. But the province [East Kalimantan] has the most prostitution areas,” said Khofifah.
She said after an area is closed, each sex worker is given Rp 5 million in compensation and offered a small loan to start their own business.
Khofifah said that no area would begin operation again after Ramadhan.
“We hope all of you, having lost the way, can return home and start a normal life,” she said in front of sex workers in Bayur.
Separately, West Java Police arrested on Wednesday four men allegedly involved in online prostitution.
West Java Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Yusri Yunus said that the arrest was the result of a lead provided by four women who had fallen victim to the ring. “The network offered services from nine women in Klaten [Central Java], Bogor, Sukabumi and Cianjur [West Java],” he said.
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