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Southeast Asia's largest red-light district closes

Dolly Complex in Indonesia's Surabaya shut down

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

June 19, 2014

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Southeast Asia’s largest red-light district, in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, was shut down yesterday after pressure from locals.

Authorities announced the closure of the Dolly prostitution complex in Putat Jaya village, Sawahan subdistrict, Wednesday evening, stating that the area should be transformed into a “dignified” space that will attract businesses.

“There are social conflicts. People living in the red-light district feel uneasy with the activities,” Mayor Tri Rismaharani told “Children feel the same. We, the government, must take a serious step to deal with it.” 

She acknowledged that the closure of the red-light district wasn’t easy because sex workers and pimps strongly protested against the threats it presented to their livelihoods.

“We understand why they reject it. They live there. We, however, won’t leave them behind after the closure. We will give them cash compensation so that they can find jobs.”

The social affairs ministry has allocated eight billion rupiah (about US$677,000) to be disbursed to sex workers and pimps, with each individual receiving five million rupiah.

According to data from the town’s social agency, 1,020 sex workers and 311 pimps depended on the red-light district for their livelihood. The area, consisting of 52 brothels, was first established by a sex worker named Dolly Khavit in 1967.

Siane Indriani from the National Commission on Human Rights asserted that the closure wasn’t a violation of human rights.

“Instead, it’s a good move and part of [the government’s] effort to uphold the dignity of the sex workers and pimps,” she said. “They should be able to think about how they can get jobs besides prostitution.”

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