Prostitutes offered factory work during Ramadan in Indonesia
The public order officers in Malang regency in the Indonesian province of East Jave have banned prostitutes from operating during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and are making efforts to secure them jobs in cigarette factories as an alternative means of
The initiative was aimed at minimizing the number of sex workers in Malang regency in East Java, according to Ihnawul Muslimin, the investigation and disciplinary division head of the public order police unit in Malang.
It would also equip them with the necessary skills to seek other means of income so they do not return to sex work, he said.
"We can't ask them to stop operating during Ramadan without giving them an alternative means of income, as this is our moral obligation," said Ihwanul.
"The closure of brothels should be followed up with solutions. Sex workers should be introduced to positive activities, at least during the month of Ramadan, so they can live a more meaningful life and (hopefully) not return to their old trade," said Ihwanul earlier this week.
The regency administration will provide training and capital to sex workers to buy tobacco and paper so they can produce hand-rolled cigarettes, which will then be supplied to cigarette factories.
Malang is home to 321 large and small scale cigarette factories, 193 of which are currently operational and located in 33 of the regency's districts.
Data at the Malang regency health office shows that at least 486 sex workers currently operate in several red-light districts in the regency.
Observations conducted by officers and activists in the field indicate that a sex worker who usually serves two to three customers per day can earn 50,000 rupiah (approximately 5.50 US dollars) daily, after deducting lodging and meal expenses and payment to pimps.
Meanwhile, a cigarette factory worker can earn 40,000 rupiah a day.
"This program will be carried out not only during Ramadan, but also after the holy month," Ihwanul said.
He added the programme, which had been ongoing for the past year, was initially strongly rejected by various parties, such as pimps and others who felt they would be deprived of their incomes.
As a consequence, many cigarette companies, which were initially willing to employ the prostitutes, retreated as they, as well as the sex workers, received threats.
Last year, the regency administration introduced the programme at a brothel in Suko village, Sumberpucung district, where around 70 prostitutes operated. Only around 15 percent of the sex workers were willing to take part in the programme and were hired by three factories.
Ihwanul then familiarised the public with the programme and coordinated with cigarette companies, the Malang regency police, the local social welfare office and community figures to help sex workers who wished to leave their old profession.
"Three factories have stated their cooperation and will accept the sex workers. They will be chosen from the red-light areas nearest to the factories so they don't have to spend extra money on transportation."
The regency administration's policy to close down brothels and entertainment establishments during Ramadhan is also aimed at minimizing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn till dusk, in accordance with one of the five pillars of their religion. The daily fast is broken by prayers and festive meals.
AKI, Jakarta Post Last Mod: 14 Eylül 2007, 17:27