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Child Sex Trafficking in Indonesia

Farah Amalia

Child Sex Trafficking in Indonesia
Child trafficking is defined as by the UN as ‘The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation’. A child is anyone under the age of 18. In this writing I will focus on the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, where in Indonesia alone around 100.000 children and women are trafficked each year. Among that number 40.000 – 70.000 are children, 43.5% of them are 14 year-olds. Indonesia is considered as a sending country, a destination country, and an internal/domestic country.

Source: ECPAT

Children are trafficked to tourist destinations abroad and domestically to fulfill the demand of sex tourists. Children in the ages between 15 – 18 years old are sent to tourist destinations in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Domestic sex tourist destinations are Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, Central Java, West Java, East Java, and the Riau islands. Young girls that are trafficked to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and

Singapore are mainly to fulfill mail order brides (brides ordered through a catalogue) through the mediation of marriage brokers. As a destination country Indonesia also receives incoming children women and children from China, Thailand, and Easter Europe (although small compared to the number of outgoing children). Some children are also sent to forest brothels (prostitution houses) in illegal logging and mining areas. The demand for child trafficking comes from pedophiles and basically anyone who are willing to pay for sex. There are no common characteristics for these people; they may be married or un-married, upper or middle class, and from any profession.

Causes of Child Sex Trafficking
I can conclude that there are five main causes to child trafficking:      Poverty Lack of education Family expectation Social acceptance of child labor Lack of law enforcement

These causes are somehow interrelated with the base of it being poverty. A child of a poor family needs to start working at an early age to help their family. This condition of poverty makes it acceptable to the society for young children to be working. Some marry young to ease the burden of their parents. Being without high education leaves them only options of informal jobs and they become vulnerable to being tricked intro trafficking. There is a lack of birth registration in Indonesia (one of the cause is the families can’t afford the registration fee). Children who are not registered basically do not exist to the state, making them unprotected by law. These causes can be linked together in a cycle, which can be seen in Illustration 1. Yuni Mulyono’s case is an example: “I became a domestic worker in Indonesia because my family is poor – I had no choice. My father is a farmer and furniture maker, and I have six brothers and one sister, all younger than me. There were no jobs in the little town in Sumatra where I grew up, so when I was 15 the girl who lived next door took me to Jakarta and found me a job.” – Yuni Mulyono, trafficked for domestic work in Jakarta (source:


Bonded by debt and cant get out of deal

Working at a young age

Promised a high salary job, they are asked to pay a high commission fee.
Tricked into trafficking

Not having a good education due to poverty and cutting school
Informal jobs

Lack of birth registration makes it easy to fake documents. Unregistered children are invisible to the state.
Illustration 1

Traffickers can be anyone. They might be strangers or they might even be relatives; at some cases trafficking involves a parent or a guardian. Traffickers are mostly a part of a professional criminal network. They take advantage of the lack of birth registration by making fake identifications for their victims, raising the ages so they can be granted work visas. The strategy to keep the victim from being free is by bonding them with a debt. The debt comes from a high commission fee when they were first promised a high-salary job. The victims do not know where to go for help.

Since dropping out of school, Dewi (not her real name) and her family have been trying to find a good job for her to earn money to help the family. She was 16 years old when an agent came to the village looking for women who were interested in going to Singapore to work as housemaids. The salaries were higher than anything Dewi, a young woman with only a junior high school education could ever hope to earn in Indonesia. She and her family jumped at the offer. The agent told her not to bring her identity card, because a new one would be made for her. In Batam she stayed at the migrant worker holding centre for several weeks as her papers were being processed. Before leaving for Singapore the manager of the centre gave Dewi her new identity card. The date of birth had been changed to make her 18 years old, old enough to enter Singapore on a work visa. Once in Singapore, her problems began. Her employer was very difficult to please. He began to sexually harass her and asked for 'special favours'. When Dewi refused he sent her back to the employment agency claiming she was a lazy worker. The agent got very angry and threatened to send her to Batam as a sex worker. She asked to be sent home. He agreed, but only if she repaid all of his expenses which amounted to over IDR 10 million (over US$ 1,000). Instead, he sent her to another agency in Batam, and they too insisted that she repay their expenses before she could go home. As she had no money, they planned to send her to Malaysia to work as a domestic helper with the other girls in the centre. Dewi was afraid and anxious to return home. She wrote her father about her predicament. Her father contacted a legal aid organization. This organization contacted Solidaritas Perempuan, who together with a Batam-based NGO, Karya Migran, and the local police started working on Dewi's case. Luckily they found Dewi still in the holding centre. They were able to convince the centre to release her. The police found a passport in which her date of birth had been changed to make her 25 years old, the age required for a work visa in Malaysia. Dewi is now back home with her family. She left behind many other underage girls at the holding centre waiting to be sent to Malaysia as migrant workers. Source: ICMC Publication – Trafficking of women and children in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Efforts in Eradicating Child Sex Trafficking
Legal Framework In 2007 Indonesia adapted Law No.21 2007; Eradication of Criminal Act of Human Trafficking. This law defines trafficking and criminalizes its doers. Punishment is given in form of fine and imprisonment. The Government ratified ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Form of Child Labour in 2000 and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime in 2009. In 2001, the Government signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the

Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography but is still currently working on a draft to ratify it.

Source: ECPAT

National Plan of Action Presidential Decree Number 88, 2000 passed to the Coordinating Ministry of People’s Welfare gave way to the Indonesian National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Trafficking in Women and Children (NPA) which is to be implemented over a five-year period, and then reviewed every five year starting with the 2009-2014 period. The NPA is a guideline for both government and civil society in the fight against trafficking. The leadership of the NPA is held by the Ministry of Women Empowerment. The NPA is divided into five themes:      Legislation and Law Enforcement: establishing legal norms and empowering law enforcers against traffickers Prevention of all forms of trafficking Protection and Victims Assistance: providing rehabilitation and social reintegration for victims of trafficking Participation of Women and Children (Empowerment) Building Cooperation and Coordination (National, Provincial, Local, and International and Regional: Bilateral and Multilateral)

Each theme contains a list of activities to be conducted by government at the national, provincial, district and local levels.

The NPA National Task Force & Regional Task Force The National Task Force consisting of a steering and an implementing committee is to ensure the implementing of the NPA. The steering committee is headed by the Coordinating Minister of Menkokesra and the Implementing Committee by the Minister of Kementrian PP. The Implementing Committee also consists of civil society representatives.

Needing to implement the NPA in every level of the government, “to ensure the implementation of the NPA at the regional level, NPA Task Forces shall be formed through Governor’s Decrees at the provincial level and through Regents’ or Mayoral Decrees at the regency/mayoralty level of government.” In accordance to Regional Autonomy, the members of the Task Force are up to the local government to decide and the actions of each Task Force may differ according to local governmental policy initiatives.

Service for Trafficking Victims
Forty-one Integrated Service Centres or hospital-based service centres have been established. These centres provide medical and psychosocial as well as legal and social services for victims of trafficking. More than 300 help desks are operational in police stations to assist women and child victims of violence, including trafficking.

Source: ECPAT

Business Opportunities
Taking advantage of this situation does not necessarily mean becoming traffickers. The opportunities for a can be seen by looking at the roots of the problem; poverty. As stated before, poor family conditions demand young children to work to support their families which eventually lead them to being trafficked. What the children really need is a friendly job that will get them a satisfactory amount of money without being exploited. A business can take advantage of this. Can employing children be beneficial and legal at the same time? What businesses are suitable for child workers? Age regulation Indonesian law states that workers should not be under the age of 18, but under special conditions companies may employ children as young as 13. This ‘special condition’ is when children have no other choice but to work to support their family or themselves. This matches very well with the conditions of the children trafficked (which 43.5% of them are 14 year-olds). So under the age regulation, it is legal to employ children.

Work conditions By the law these children are protected: a) b) c) d) e) f) g) h) To not work more than 4 hours a day To not work during the hours between 18.00 and 06.00 To be paid fairly according to working hours To not work in underground mines and underground diggings, including under water. To not work in a closed room with machines To not work in places or jobs that threatens their decency, safety, and health. To not work in constructions, and; To not work in loading and transfer of goods in ports, docks, shipyards, stations, stops, and unloading as well as in good storage or warehouses.

By these conditions children are most suitable working in home industries such as an arts and crafts business. They can work to make hand-made products and they won’t need to be in a ‘closed room with machines’. A business like this would not require children to work long hours that would disturb their schooling. Working children must also receive consent from their parents. This would not be a problem. Wages Article 92 Paragraph 1 of the Labor Law of 2003 states that a company is to set up wages with respect to position, period of employment, education, and competence. So wages for young children are likely to be smaller than the average worker. Benefits of employing vulnerable children In an economic perspective employing children would be less expensive. They are going to be less of a trouble too because they do not have complicated demands. As said earlier, they just need a job that can help pay for their family. On the other hand, employing vulnerable children would give a positive image on a business. People tend to buy more from companies that care about the community and help the less fortunate, and they would even buy for a higher price. People would buy an expensive simple fabric bag if it were “made by kids of Somalia” knowing that the country just faced a terrible drought. The same would also apply for handicrafts made by child trafficking victims of Indonesia. Recruiting by taking advantage of government services for trafficking victims With services that the government offers for trafficking victims, a business that wants to employ children do not have to go looking to the rural areas. It can easily take advantage of governmental and non-governmental institutions that have direct contact with the victims.

The helplines are run by NGOs. If a business can prove itself that it will provide working conditions that follow the regulation for child labour, it can work together with those NGOs. During or after the child’s rehabilitation the NGO will refer the child to the employer. This can also be done with governmental institutions such as the ‘Rumah Perlindungan Sosial Anak’. If a business puts forward the goal of helping vulnerable children earn a living, it will be trusted by many governmental and non-governmental organizations. Even if the business is a small one.1 Business suitable for child workers Business can be evil if it forgets to be morally responsible. Employing children would be cheaper but it still must consider the children’s rights. They are still young and they deserve the chance to go to school, to have fun, and to rest. The best solution would be to have a child work as part-time helpers in a home industry. For example a souvenir or handicraft making business. The children can come to help at after-school hours for 4 hours each day. Or in a business that needs to deliver things to the customers, like a catering business, the children can be the delivery person (taking into account the legal age to drive a motor vehicle). Employing children would still be cheaper than getting adults to do these simple jobs.


My own personal experience in running a youth non-profit organization, we were able to work with the local government of Kaimana, West Papua. We were only three weeks old and we have never met with them but our intention to help kids in Kaimana got them to agree to help us do our movement. I think it goes the same for businesses that have a social purpose.

ECPAT Publication – “Sex Trafficking of Children in Indonesia” ( ECPAT Factsheet – “Report Card: Indonesia” ( – “Trafficking factors in Indonesia” ICMC Publication – “Trafficking of Women & Children in Indonesia” ( ARTIP Project – Indonesia Law No.21 2007 – “Kompilasi Peraturan Perundang-Undangan Mengenai Eksploitasi Ekonomi/Pekerja Anak”