Indonesian sex workers cover their faces during a raid on a bar in Surabaya, Indonesia, in this file photo. Activists in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province have voiced concern over the prevalence of child prostitution in the predominantly Christian region. (Photo: AFP)
Dozens of human rights activists in Indonesia’s predominantly Christian province of East Nusa Tenggara have condemned a lack of effort by the government and society in fighting child prostitution.
The criticism follows several recent cases which they said required urgent action to prevent further incidents.
The activists belonging to the Child and Woman Network said the reported cases occurred because of a lack of attention from the government and law enforcement and because a community was too apathetic to do anything about it.
"If this is not immediately addressed and anticipated, this condition will make the practice of prostitution pervasive," they said in a statement on June 21.
A prostitution ring that exploited teenage girls was uncovered in Ende district this month. Girls were being paid US$21-35 for sex.
In early April, police raided a hotel in Ruteng in Manggarai district where they found young girls serving customers.
In March, prostitution rings where pimps reportedly used online applications to offer children to customers were busted in East Sumba and Kupang districts.
Maria Yohanista Djou, the network’s spokesperson, said that "it’s likely happening all over the province."
She said there have been no official statistics about this menace as it often goes unreported.
She told UCA News that vigilance from all parties is needed to prevent children being lured, especially by predators online.
"Without increased awareness and adequate protection, the risk for children falling into the clutches of sexual predators is very high," she said, adding the problem was also being exacerbated by economic difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the network urged law enforcement officials to eradicate the exploitation. "Protecting women and children must be a priority," they said.
They said people also need to care for each other more and increase cooperation. "Communities must work together with the government to create a child-friendly environment where child protection is carried out systematically," they said.
Sister Maria Yosephina Pahlawati, an activist nun based in Labuan Bajo and a well-known campaigner against women and child abuse, said modern technology such as the internet make it harder for parents to monitor their children’s activities.
"We generally educate parents to be more proactive in monitoring their children and about the dangers the internet can bring," she said.