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Trafficking and Tourism in Indonesia

Child trafficking still stands as one of Indonesia’s greatest issues. Everyday, underage teenagers and children of this country are subjected to the industry, particularly on the resort islands of Bali and Batam. Many victims stem from poor families and broken homes. Some political parties have been pushing for sex education in schools. However, the Indonesian government has a long way to go in creating a safer environment for children and aiding trafficking victims.

Global non-profits focused on human rights have criticized the Indonesian government for its ineffectiveness, as measures to prevent and stop the human trafficking dilemma have fallen short. According the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), approximately 100,000 women and children fall victim to the sex trafficking ring each year. Thirty percent of sex workers are underage (below 18). The 40,000 to 70,000 children who escape the sex trafficking ring are oftentimes still exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation.

According to the Ministry of Social Data,  360,000 people were trafficked commercially as sex workers in 2016, 56,000 of which were children. While human trafficking continues to plague all of Indonesia, big cities such as Balikpapan, Samarinda, Tenggarong, and Bontang see a higher number of children caught in prostitution rings. Minors in the sex trafficking industry are subject to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. In metropolises such as these, an average of 1,800 to 2,000 children, aged 14-18 years-old, become prostitutes.

In addition to seeing sky-high numbers domestically, Indonesian traffickers are exporting their sexual commodities in the form of boys and girls, aged 15 to 18 years, overseas to Malaysia,  Hong Kong, Singapore, the Riau Islands, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi. These areas see high volumes of tourists as they are popular vacation destinations.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Children Protection on sexually abused children revealed that 1 out of every 12 boys and 1 out of every 19 girls fall subject to sexual violence.

Boys are more sought after due to their masculinity and strength, traits seen as sexually desirable. Additionally, due to social stigma, boys are more likely to keep quiet about their sexual abuse. This leads traffickers and perpetrators to favor them over girls. However, while boys are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, both genders face great amounts of suffering.

Indonesian authorities believe that social media websites are helping sex traffickers grow their industries. These platforms allow traffickers to magnify their potential clientele on a global scale. Traffickers can upload photos and personal information of their young prostitutes to be viewed by millions across the world. Social media also makes finding and connecting clients to victims easier and more accessible.

Currently, the Indonesian government is working alongside police to create legislation and methods to prevent and stop this heinous industry in their country. Laws such as the 2016 revision of the country’s Electronic Transactions and Pornography Law allow authorities to have legal jurisdiction over websites deemed suspicious or subject to strange activity. These laws are meant to take down pornographic sites.

The Indonesian government’s actions are moving in a more progressive direction, but with the trafficking business going virtual, more measures must be set in motion to truly be effective.

Featured Image by Abdul Rahman on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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