Many women still fall victim to sex trafficking

Lita (not her real name), 26, never imagined she would be forced to remove her clothes in a locked hotel room to serve a high-paying customer shortly after her arrival in Kuching, Malaysia.

“I dropped to my knees to persuade him to let me go, but to no avail,” she said during a conference on trafficking on Monday.

She added that her customer eventually let her go after she gave him a sexual service.

Lita dealt with customers daily and continued to beg them to help her escape.

Three months later, a customer lent her his cell phone, on which she contacted her older brother, who later reported the case to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

IOM later coordinated with the police to raid the brothel.

Lita is a single parent of a 4-year-old child. Her husband left her for another woman when she was seven months’ pregnant in 2005.

After giving birth, she met with an agency official promising her a good salary if she was willing to work in a restaurant in Malaysia.

She accepted the offer in the hope that she could improve the financial situation of her family. She didn’t know that she would be forced to work as a prostitute.

Lita managed to return to Indonesia by the end of 2006. Shortly after her return, she underwent a medical checkup in a hospital in Jakarta.

She was shocked to learn that she had contracted HIV.

“I didn’t even know where and how I got the virus. I thought I would die very soon,” she said.

Lita is one of 30,000 Indonesian women who fall victim to sex trafficking each year, according to the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan).

The IOM says that in February alone, 2,307 out of 3,339 trafficking victims were women, while 676 were children.

A member of Komnas Perempuan, Sri Wiyanti Eddyono, said that poverty and ignorance were the main causes of human trafficking.

“Trafficking victims are generally from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, people who dream of improving the welfare of their family,” she said.

Sri said the implementation of the 2007 law on the eradication of human trafficking had been ineffective, citing the high frequency of women trafficked every year.

She also said that weak coordination between regional administrations and the central government, as well as with government representatives in other countries had increased the number of women being trafficked.

“The government has failed to protect its own citizens and protect their rights,” she said.

A policy analyst from Migrant Care, Wahyu Susilo, said that most trafficked women went abroad through legal means. However, after arriving at their destination were sold to unknown parties.

State Women’s Empowerment Minister Linda Gumelar said a strategy involving various ethnic and
religious groups was needed to minimize discrimination against women. (nia)



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