Jakarta. Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar, the minister of women’s empowerment and child protection, has taken to a joint US-Indonesia seminar to emphasize the importance of abolishing all forms of human trafficking, both inside and outside the country.
“Human trafficking, a form of modern slavery, has generated huge amounts of money for syndicates across the world. These criminals and the dangers they pose should be place equivalent to that of arms dealers and drug rings,” she told the Jakarta Globe at a seminar in Jakarta on Friday.
The seminar was titled “The US and Indonesia: Stop Human Trafficking.”
The minister brought up a recent case in Sumut, Medan, where a local businessman was discovered to have held dozens of women from East Nusa Tenggara captive in his home; as well as an incident in Bogor, West Java, where a domestic worker had been tortured and forced to work without pay.
Migrant and domestic workers are frequent victims of human trafficking, she commented, as they are unaware of their rights as free citizens. Poverty and a lack of education make them an easy target for illegal recruiters and employment agencies who dupe women into giving up the little money they have for a fictitious job in the city. Instead, victims are sold into a form of modern slavery as housemaids, or worse, as sex workers.
Gumelar then focused on children, stressing the need to increase both families’ and society’s protective measures to secure their safety.
“We need to be fully aware because perpetrators nowadays not only chase children or women, but also students through the use of technology, such as social media,” she said.
Gumelar went on, lamenting the mindset many Indonesians still have.
“I don’t understand how, in this day and age, we are still stuck in a patriarchy culture. The lack of education on gender equality and the imbalance of social relations only result in tragedy. Hence, psychological, physical and sexual forms of exploitation happen everywhere around us.
“We’re also becoming a culture that is easily influenced, but those who suffer from it are mostly women and female children. Victims are either afraid to open up to their parents or parents are insensitive toward their children’s feelings, which is why we have to focus on prevention,” she insisted, though added that combatting human trafficking is never an easy job.
“Most perpetrators are people who are close to the victim, such as an employer, a teacher or even a family member,” she said. “I hope all families will be able to protect their loved ones from such horrible crimes.”
US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake emphasized the requirement of international cooperation in eradicating human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is a problem that affects… all countries, including my own, both as sources and destination country for traffickers. Because this is a transnational problem, we require international cooperation. We’re committed to forming a cooperative program with the government of Indonesia, as well as with the non-governmental organizations in the country,” Blake said.
The ambassador outlined the extensive measures his nation takes in raising awareness about human trafficking. By providing training programs for prosecutors, judges and law-enforcement officers, the United States gives its legal officials an in-depth understanding of the crime, while making sure appropriate measures were in place to control the problem and to prosecute the guilty.
Blake expressed his interest in introducing Indonesia to the same program.
“We have strong areas in preventing [trafficking], protecting the victims and prosecuting those who are responsible. Even with such programs, trafficking still occurs, so it’s important to constantly be doing everything we can, to raise awareness and particularly help those who are the most vulnerable [women and children], who don’t necessarily understand the risk that they might face,” he said.
Hanita Margaretha, deputy chairperson of Jakarta’s Integrated Service Center for Women and Children (P2TP2A), brought up the horrific yet common situation of young workers being sold by their own parents due to financial constraints.
She said she is currently representing two children in East Kalimantan who found themselves sold as sex workers.
“As we reported the case to the court, we realized that the children didn’t think of themselves as victims of human trafficking. Sadly, they didn’t seem traumatized, though they were sexually exploited by the people closest to them,” she said.
Jakarta has become the second-biggest transit destination for domestic trafficking after Tanjung Pinang in Riau Islands, though “most victims we’ve handled are from outside Jakarta,” Hanita said, referring to the Migrant Workers Placement Agency (PJTKI).
Tim Dwyer, deputy attache to the Department of Homeland Security and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS ICE), said the agency has created a smartphone application, the first in US federal law enforcement, designed to seek the public’s help with fugitives and suspected child predators.
“The federal law enforcement [agency] allows it [the app] to receive updates on child exploitation through social media to help combat child exploitation,” he said.
The DHS ICE has been cooperating with the Indonesian National Police as a liaison for missing and exploited children in Indonesia.
“We have one very successful case. We received a lead in April last year of an individual who has uploaded videos on YouTube. We did some investigative research based on information provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children [NCMEC] and we were able to find his Facebookaccount. We were able to provide this information to the Indonesian Police, and in May he was arrested… and sentenced to five years in jail,” he said.
The perpetrator admitted to assaulting three children, who were 5 and 6 years of age.
Dwyer added that joint investigations between the two countries’ law-enforcement agencies resulted in the arrests of four individuals, the rescue of 17 minors and the disruption of a child pornography website.