In recent years, Indonesia has been struggling to address the grim issue of child sex trafficking. Although laws are in place to provide protection for children, there is still much work to be done in implementing these policies. Tourist hot spots such as Bali and urban centers are where trafficking and exploitation of children thrive. Here are 10 facts about child sex trafficking in Indonesia.
10 Facts About Child Sex Trafficking in Indonesia
- There are an estimated 70,000-80,000 victims of child sex trafficking in Indonesia. Despite this alarmingly high number, Indonesian authorities arrested only 132 traffickers in 2019. The police struggle to identify victims and rely heavily on assistance from NGOs.
- Up to 30% of Indonesia’s commercial sex workers are female victims of child sex trafficking. Underage girls represent a majority of child sex trafficking victims, but boys are also at high risk.
- Foreign tourists are often complicit. Australians and Singaporeans, in particular, have been major culprits in committing acts of sexual abuse towards children in Indonesia, along with smaller numbers of other nationalities.
- Sometimes friends and family members force children into sex work. When it comes to child sex trafficking, brokers are highly varied and can be family members of victims.
- Indonesia is a source and destination country for child sex trafficking. In addition to urban centers in Indonesia, child sex workers have been trafficked to Malaysia, Taiwan, the Middle East and other regions.
- Poverty due to natural disasters plays a role. Natural disasters have been a major reason for mass displacement and chronic poverty in many of Indonesia’s thousands of islands. Victims of child sex trafficking often originate from situations of displacement.
- There are 4 million impoverished children at risk. This is an estimate by the Indonesian government of children that are living in abject poverty and are at risk of exploitation. Addressing poverty, therefore, is an essential component of ending child sex trafficking.
- High rates of urban youth homelessness also lead to increased trafficking. There are an estimated 16,000 homeless children living in urban centers throughout Indonesia. Living on the streets greatly increases the vulnerability of these children.
- The police only enforce laws when under pressure. NGOs report that Indonesian police aren’t likely to intervene in child sex trafficking situations unless they are under pressure by the government or the international community to do so. Some of this is due to a lack of funding.
- Child sex trafficking is no longer an unknown problem. Thanks to the tireless work of NGOs and aid organizations, there is now more awareness and advocacy for child protection in Indonesia.
The NGO Dark Bali operates using three steps of prevention, intervention and rehabilitation in assisting victims. The first step involves combating poverty, offering protection and educating vulnerable families. It identifies intervention as the weakest link in protecting children, so Dark Bali raises awareness of the issue and puts pressure on law enforcement to intervene in cases of child sex trafficking. Lastly, the NGO offers long-term rehabilitation for victims, along with educational programs and job training.
Project Karma is an Australia-based charity run by a former detective that assists Indonesian police in apprehending child sex traffickers throughout Southeast Asia. Their operations have rescued more than 200 children and brought more than 30 sex traffickers to justice for their crimes. In addition to raising awareness, Project Karma also utilizes digital platforms to alert authorities of pedophile rings and posts photos of fugitives throughout the region.
Australia has addressed cases of its citizens sexually abusing children in Southeast Asia by banning travel for convicted pedophiles. This applies to 20,000 Australians that were convicted at home or abroad. For those that sexually abused children abroad, the country has some of the world’s strictest punishments, with sentences of up to 25 years in prison.
Thanks to coordinated NGO task forces throughout the country, the issue of child sex trafficking in Indonesia is a more widely known societal problem. With the continued work of these organizations, the Indonesian government and police forces are under more pressure to implement laws protecting children. Important connections have been made between NGOs and law enforcement that will be crucial to ending child sex trafficking in Indonesia.
– Matthew Brown