Sex trafficking is defined as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of commercial sex act. According to Equality Now, almost 21 million adults and children are sold into sex trafficking around the world. Unfortunately, women and young girls make up 98% of that number. Despite the laws in place that criminalize human sex trafficking in 134 countries worldwide, it remains the quickest growing global criminal enterprise. Sex trafficking is a violation of our most basic human rights. Those sold into sex trafficking are subjected to horrible conditions, and often suffer from both mental and physical abuse. They also have a greater risk of contracting dangerous sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. Many women forced into sex slavery become pregnant, and are forced to endure unsafe abortions that threaten their lives. It is clear that sex trafficking is a pressing issue that must be addressed by countries around the world.
According to the US State Department, sex trafficking is a major issue in Indonesia. The Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report states that all of Indonesia’s 34 provinces serve as both a source of and destination for sex slaves. Indonesian citizens working abroad, either with work visas or undocumented, are especially vulnerable to becoming victim to the sex trade. Reports show that the majority of Indonesian women who were bought and sold into sex slavery were trafficked mainly to Malaysia, Taiwan, and various countries in the Middle East. Research by various NGO’s has revealed that labor recruiters are responsible for the majority of Indonesian women sold into sex slavery abroad. These recruiters lure women in with the false promise of a job and a chance to make money. Many of these women are poor with very little options. Enticed by the false hope offered by these labor recruiters, these women eventually become a part of the global sex trade. The rise in popularity of social media has also made it easier to deceive women, specifically younger women, and force them into sexual slavery.
UNICEF identified extreme poverty, a social acceptance of child labor, low birth registration, and a lack of gender equality as the main causes of sex trafficking in Indonesia. Poverty is a widespread issue in Indonesia. According to the World Bank, 11.3% of Indonesia’s population lived below the poverty line as of 2014. Many of those living in extreme poverty see selling their sisters or daughters into sex slavery as their only financial option, especially in a country with a questionable record on women’s rights. Poor women are also more vulnerable and more likely to fall prey to sex traffickers, who may make big promises in order to entice them.
The government of Indonesia has made small strides in terms of its efforts to stop sex trafficking within its borders. In the past ten years, the government has passed multiple pieces of legislation that specifically address sex trafficking, such as the Eradication of Criminal Act of Trafficking in Persons and the Decree of the Coordinating Ministry of People’s Welfare. A national task force was also created in 2008 in order to combat sex trafficking. However, the implementation and enforcement of these laws have been challenging for Indonesia, and sex trafficking remains a huge problem within the country.
The Sustainable Development Goals are a set goals created by the United Nations aimed at increasing prosperity for our world. They include ending poverty, combating climate change, and increasing global education levels. Sex trafficking is mentioned under Goal 5: Gender Equality. The objective of Goal 5 is to end all forms of discrimination against women, which includes eliminating all forms of violence against women, such as sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. In order to end sex trafficking worldwide, countries need to commit more resources to agencies that work against sex slavery. They also need to increase efforts to investigate sex trafficking cases, and harshen the punishments for those convicted of sex trafficking. They also need to eliminate any laws that might punish the victim of sex trafficking. Finally, countries must make more of a commitment to strengthening women’s rights and women’s access to education. Strong and educated women make for a stronger, safer, and more educated world.