The red-light district of Saritem, in Bandung, may be about to be closed.
Bandung's oldest red-light district, Saritem, could soon be shut down because the city administration is preparing to crack down on prostitution. The administration says it will begin implementing a 2005 local bylaw on order, cleanliness and beauty in November of this year. The ordinance contains an article on prostitution which says that anyone who provides sexual services for money is subject to fines of up to 50 million rupiah. Anyone using the services of prostitutes can face a fine of up to 5 million.
Public order officers have begun passing out leaflets to inform residents of the red light district about the ordinance and the penalties they could face for violating it. Kebon Jeruk district head Yayan Ahadiat said:
We've conducted regular programs to let people know about the ordinance. On Wednesday we called all the pimps and 64 of them showed up to learn about the closure plan and the fines to be imposed by the city administration.
He said the information was expected to be passed on to the prostitutes by the pimps. There are about 450 prostitutes and 73 brothel owners or pimps operating from two neighborhood units in Saritem.
Many prostitutes are naturally reported to be concerned for their futures and want the city administration to help them find alternative work if the red-light district is closed. "Dina", a four-year veteran of the area, said
Go ahead and close Saritem. They have been planning it for a long time. But we have not been offered any alternatives, so how can we earn money to eat?
The red-light district has been in the city since colonial times and is a similar place to Dolly in Surabaya.
Authorities first began talking about shutting down Saritem in 1998, as part of a morality campaign. Billions of rupiah were reportedly spent by the city administration to build the Darut Taubah Islamic boarding school in the middle of the red-light district in 2000. The school was located in the area to improve Saritem's image, as well as to promote religious teachings among the prostitutes. However six years later the presence of the school appears to have caused little change in the area.
The head of Bandung's Islamic Boarding School Communication Forum, Imam Sonhaji, who came up with the bright idea of building the Islamic boarding school in Saritem, said the main problem with getting women out of prostitution was finding them alternative careers.
There are training programs to provide them with new skills but they have no capital. The administration should come up with a solution to help them get out of prostitution.
In addition to those directly employed in prostitution, about a thousand other Saritem residents earn a living from the red-light district, including from running food stalls and massage parlours.
April 17th 2007. Saritem has now been fully closed down. It is said that out of 400 prostitutes who normally work in the area only a handful remain. Those who do remain were said to be giving discounts of 50,000 rupiah to customers, to commemorate the last day of operation of the red light district, which was Sunday 15th April. Most of the houses used for brothels in the area have "for sale" signs on them. detik
Protest signs at Saritem.