Kiprah 2, Edition 41

Harmonizing Ideology and Upholding Human Rights for Vulnerable Groups

Nihayatul Wafiroh

In Indonesia, the issue of prostitution is unique. On the one hand, our society holds the value that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is immoral and “forbidden”. But on the other hand, prostitution always grows everywhere and never dies as it works according to economic law “if there is a demand, there is a goods”. 

The complexity of this issues encourages the One Vision Alliance (ASV) and PKBI DIY—Indonesian Family Planning Association of Special Region of Yogyakarta—to conduct a National Symposium on “Human Rights, Sexuality and Gender Approach in Overcoming HIV & AIDS and Trafficking: Organizing the Differences of Ideology and Harmonizing Strategies on the Issues of HIV & AIDS, Trafficking, and Sex Workers.” The event was held in the Office of Headman of Sosromenduran in Pasar Kembang (Sarkem), which is one of the famous places for prostitution complex in the DIY—Special Region of Yogyakarta—province.

The event, which took place from 29 to 31 of January 2013, had three main objectives:

  1. Harmonizing the perspective of gender and sexuality and human rights on prostitution or sexual services,
  2. Establishing a movement for protection and fulfillment of human rights for sex workers in the context of overcoming HIV & AIDS and Trafficking,
  3. Formulating the juridical and strategic basis for the fulfillment of Human Rights for Sex Workers. A number of people from various regions of Java were involved in this event including the members of the One Vision Alliance (ASV), activists, observers, academicians as well as the representatives of the sex workers. 

In general, the event was divided into three main activities that were a pre-discourse presentation, orientation of situation, and discussion. In the pre-discourse presentation, information from three speakers with different backgrounds was presented. First, Drs. Inang Winarso, in his paper “Criminalization of Sex Buyers: Looking for a Lost Chapter”, discussed the history of prostitution in Indonesia. Secondly, Ignatius Pratoraharjo (Gambit), in his presentation on “Sex Workers in the Prevention of AIDS” invited participants to review the definition of Sex Work and Sex Workers, apart from explaining some movements to tackle AIDS on sex workers conducted in various countries. Meanwhile, the third speaker, Sarmi, a representative of the sex workers who is also a chairman of P3SY delivered a paper entitled “Refusing to be Weakened, Suing for Protection: Sex Workers in the Challenges of HIV & AIDS and Trafficking”.

Sarmi revealed the fact that nobody in this world who aspires or imagines to be a Female Sex Worker (PPS). But, life is often unpredictable and not in accordance with one’s expectations. Her findings in Sarkem in 2012 mentioned that almost 61.3% of PPS have experienced violence ranging from physical, psychological, sexual and economic violence. While the perpetrators of violence are sex buyers, government apparatus (during the raid), and PPS spouse—who often treated PPS as an ATM machine. With such conditions, Sarmi gave two important recommendations that could be followed up later: (1) Policies that contain a protection of safe workplace. (2) Refusing the criminalization of man of sex buyers.

During the symposium, participants were also invited to conduct field trips to understand the reality of the lives of the sex workers. I myself joined in a group who had an opportunity to visit Ngebong area, a place on the edge of the railway which is not so far from Sarkem, precisely around 200 meters in the West of Tugu Station. In Ngebong, we were accepted in a simple stall owned by Madam Yayuk, ADS chairman (Arum nDalu Sehat)—an organization driven by PPS and former PPS which has 98 members, but that number does not cover all PPS in Ngebong. 

According to the ADS management, PPS often got training that improved their skills, such as tataboga and embroidery. The ADS also helped to socialize the importance of using a condom, so the level of awareness of using a condom was much better. In every stall and in front of the room were provided condoms for free, and the condoms were the donation from KPA (AIDS Prevention Commission). ADS routinely invited its members to conduct health screening once in a month, so HIV & AIDS and IMS could be suppressed. 

Through the symposium, it is expected that a document containing harmonization of viewpoint and strategies for the protection of human rights for women including those involved in prostitution or sexual services could be agreed. The forum also inspired us to respect human rights and to declare Stop Violence in all circles of the society. {} Nihayatul Wafiroh

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