Underage girls were rescued by police from four nightclubs in East Nusa Tenggara province. (Photo: YouTube)
Nuns and priests in Indonesia have complained to President Joko Widodo over what they say is poor police handling of an underage “sex slave” case.
In a July 1 letter sent to the president and national police chief Sigit Listyo Prabowo, they claimed that they had found several irregularities in the handling of a case involving 17 underage girls and that the perpetrators could walk free as a result. They even suggested that policemen could be involved.
The girls, aged 14-17 and from West Java, were rescued two weeks ago by police from four nightclubs in Maumere in East Nusa Tenggara province’s Sikka district, where they were allegedly kept in slave-like conditions.
It is alleged they were employed as hostesses but were paid very little and forced to have sex with customers, which resulted in two girls becoming pregnant.
The raids took place after the Humanitarian Volunteer Team for Flores (TRUK-F), a church organization, received a complaint from a parent of one of the girls and reported it to police.
However, in the letter signed by several priests and nuns, including Sister Eustochia Monika Nata, the Truk-F coordinator, they said police were handling matters in a way that showed scant regard for the victims.
This is an alleged case of exploitation in which the victims are underage and is systematic with organized crime and slavery that is contrary to human rights
They cited several irregularities, including questioning victims without legal counsel being present.
They also said someone from the Ministry of Women and Child Protection tried unsuccessfully to persuade victims to leave a TRUK-F shelter against their will.
The nightclub owners were still free, they said.
“This is an alleged case of exploitation in which the victims are underage and is systematic with organized crime and slavery that is contrary to human rights,” the said in the letter.
They urged Widodo to order Prabowo, the national police chief, to take over the case and ensure the rights of the victims were respected.
Father Ottor Gusti Madung, a human rights activist and lecturer at Ledalero Catholic School of Philosophy, who signed the letter, told UCA News that because of the way the victims were being treated, there were suspicions that someone in the provincial police working on the case may have been involved in the crime.