Prostitution Thrives After Ramadan Rest

Agus Maryono
The Jakarta Post
Sat, 10/03/2009 2:04 PM

Hundreds of female sex workers have returned to the tourist site of Baturaden, located in Banyumas regency in the southwestern part of Central Java, after a month's break for Ramadan.

Their numbers are expected to increase as it has been claimed some sex workers will bring new members.

"This is common," Baturaden Tourist Community Association (PMPB) leader, Tekad Santoso, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. (This happens every year [this report is pertaining to one small muslim resort city where wealthy muslims flock to after Ramadan, this report does not take into account what occurs muslim country by muslim country and muslim city by muslim city])

"After their rest during Ramadan, the numbers *of sex workers* will rise, and Baturaden will be full of new faces." He predicted prostitute numbers would rise by up to 15 percent.

"There are usually about 200 women. But when they finish celebrating Idul Fitri in their hometowns, this figure will grow as they will bring along their friends," Tekad said.

He believes the arrival of new members will change the dynamics of the Baturaden resort. On the one hand, new members would add to the attraction.

On the other hand, newcomers might be upset they were brought into the industry.

"After Idul Fitri festivities, (Ramadanís Close) it's common for (Muslim) customers to want new prostitutes,' Tekad said. "They are willing to pay high amounts to be divided between pimps and prostitutes."

He added newcomers who were virgins were priced at around Rp 2 million (about US$200) while sexually active newcomers could fetch around Rp 600,000.

"I know the life on Sadar Lane well because I hail taxis from here, and have long been observing the prostitution being practised here.

"Deep in my heart I disagree with the act of prostitution, but even the local administration condones the practice.

"It has existed here for dozens of years and has prevailed unabated," Tekad added.

According to Tekad, 90 percent of the newcomers follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, and only 10 percent return home.

"They are usually lured into the industry by their predecessors on the pretext they would be offered decent jobs. Members don't tell potential workers until they arrive, because their offers would be rejected," he said.

"When they arrive in Baturaden, new recruits might initially resist, but because they don't have enough money to return home, they gradually give in."

He added almost 100 percent of sex workers on Sadar Lane came from outside Banyumas. "Most of them come from West Java, such as Cirebon, Tasikmalaya and Indramayu.

Some workers also come from Central Java's north coast, such as Tegal and Pekalongan."

Tekad said HIV/AIDS activists had often voiced their concern about the prostitution that had occurred in Baturaden. They believed prostitution played a major role in the rising number of people with HIV/AIDS.

"I'm also a member of an AIDS prevention initiative in Banyumas that provides knowledge to prostitutes and pimps to help curb the fatal disease."

The Banyumas regency administration, added Tekad, had been passive on preventing HIV/AIDS.

It had provided a Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) clinic in the area to conduct tests, but had not provided routine medication or initiated HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns.

"Banyumas regency currently has the second-highest number of people with HIV/AIDS in Central Java after Semarang. This is cause for grave concern. There are presently 280 people with the disease, and 40 people have died."

Banyumas Tourist Resort Development Agency head, Sudjatmiko, confirmed the matter.

"The local social, tourism and health offices had provided counseling in the past, but no longer do so," Sudjatmiko said.

"As it stands, the sex industry has no limits."