Prostitution in the Bangunsari red-light district in Surabaya, East Java, continues despite attempts to close down the area as of Dec. 21.
Police and public order officers raided Bangunsari, one of the three biggest red-light districts in Surabaya after Dolly, but 35-year-old Ria (assumed name), a Bangunsari brothel sex worker, said that she would remain operating in the area to support her two children in Madiun, also in East Java.
“Although the government and a number of Muslim organizations have offered startup capital and skills training, it’s hard to earn money fast enough to support my children in the village,” Ria told The Jakarta Post.
Ria acknowledged that she had worked in one of the Bangunsari brothels for five years. After divorcing her husband, Ria, who is a junior high school graduate, left for Surabaya after getting a job offer from a female friend.
“I can earn at least Rp 200,000 [US$22] daily in this profession. If I were to open a food stall, I might not even earn that much,” she said.
A pimp, Hari, 40, said that the administration tended to be selective in curbing prostitution.
“Why are only modest brothels and cheap hotels raided and threatened closure while covert prostitution is allowed to operate in luxury and star-rated hotels,” he asked.
Hari said that the police and public order officers unit only nabbed sex workers that were plying in hotels and brothels, and whose fees ranged between Rp 100,000 and Rp 300,000 per night. Meanwhile, prostitution in star-rated hotels, where transactions could reach millions of rupiah were not raided.
In an effort to free Surabaya from prostitution, the municipality closed the Bangunsari red-light district on Dec. 21. Krembangan Police precinct chief Adj. Comr. Dodon Priambodo said that during a joint operation that involved 150 police and public order officers, his squad nabbed six sex workers and six of their clients, one of them still a senior high school student, from several brothels in Bangunsari.
Dodon denied that police were selective in dealing with prostitution and human trafficking, as police were able to uncover a network operated by Yunita, alias Keyko, which had a turnover of millions of rupiah per day, a few months ago.
The municipality is aiming to close other red-light districts, including Kremil and Dolly by 2013.
Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismahartini said that she would close the Dolly and Kremil red-light districts despite the big challenge.
“It’s quite a challenge, especially in Dolly. The Dolly red-light district and the local community are like tea that has been mixed,” she said, adding that the administration planned to develop the three red-light districts into residential areas. The government will build a market, sidewalks, street lighting and supporting facilities to spur the local economy in the former red-light districts.
The Surabaya municipality and second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah have also provided between Rp 3 million and Rp 5 million in cash assistance for startup capital to former sex workers.
In the 1970s, Bangunsari surpassed Dolly in terms of the number of pimps and sex workers. The Surabaya municipality claimed that the number of sex workers had dropped from more than 3,000 in 1970 to 100 as of right now.
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