The Untold History of Prostitution in Indonesia

Indonesia is a country that adheres to eastern culture. However, there are still many of places that are used as localization. It is unlike countries with western culture, where the place of prostitution there is allowed or even in legal status. With the consideration that the sex workers do not wander in public places, then it is made prosthetic localization. Cheap hotels and guesthouses as ‘execution’ places and other sex-supporting items are provided for commercial sex activity to be centered there.

But despite being forbidden and blasphemous from the public, the place for the sex business is still operating despite the many times closed. How could prostitution activities grow really well Indonesia, meanwhile Indonesians are labeled as polite people? Here is the history of prostitution in Indonesia.

  1. The prostitution of feudal system in Java

The existence of prostitution development in Indonesia stems from the period of the kingdoms in Java, the Dutch colonial period, the Japanese colonial period, and after independence. In the royal period in Java, the trafficking of women who would later be included in prostitution was associated with a feudal system of government.

This form of prostitution is due to the concept of the supreme, noble and unlimited power of the king, thus gaining many concubines. It also appears that, the more concubines the king has, the stronger the position of the king in the eyes of society.

The feudal system does not fully demonstrate the commercialization of the sex industry like modern society, although what it did at that time could form the basis for the development of the current sex industry.

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  1. The concubine of the King, classic form of prostitution

In Java, the kingdom of many ancient kingdoms led by a King. The king’s duty at the time was to enact law and uphold justice; and everyone is required to obey it without exception. The infinite power of the king is also reflected in the number of concubines he possesses. Some of the concubines were the princess princes who were handed over to the king as a sign of allegiance.

Some of these king’s concubines may rise in status by giving birth to the king’s sons. Women who became the concubine came from a certain region that has many famous beautiful and charming women. The reputation of this region is still a legend to this day. There are 11 districts in Java that are known historically as women suppliers for the kingdom; and until now the area is still famous as a source of prostitutes for the city area. That is the origin of prostitution in Indonesia.

  1. During Dutch colonialism

A more organized form of the sex industry flourished during the Dutch colonial period. The condition was seen by the existence of traditional slavery system and concubinage that was implemented to meet the sexual needs of European society.

Generally, this activity developed in the areas around the harbor in Indonesia. Sexual gratification for soldiers, merchants, and messengers is a major issue in the formation of a foreign culture that enters the archipelago.

The large number of bachelors brought by employers or sent by the colonial government to come to Indonesia had caused the demand for sexual services. The condition was also supported by the people who made the activities were available, especially since many indigenous families were selling their daughters to get the material reward from the new customers (the bachelors).

On the other hand, both indigenous and colonial populations considered it dangerous to have an uncertain race relationship. Inter-racial marriages were generally opposed or forbidden, and inter-racial engagements were also not allowed.

As a result this racial relationship was usually carried out secretly. In this case, an affair (as husband and wife but not official) and a relationship based solely on commercial motivation are the options available to European men. This kind of life behavior did not seem to disturb social values ​​at the time and was gone on by their leaders.

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  1. The legalization of prostitution during colonialism

In 1852, the Dutch government passed a new regulation approving the commercialization of the sex industry but with a set of rules to avoid criminal acts arising from this prostitution activity. The legal framework remains in effect today.

Although the terms used differ, they have contributed to the study of the sex industry with respect to the characteristics and dialects used today. What is known as prostitutes (WTS) today was then referred to as a “public woman” according to the rules issued in 1852.

Under the regulation, public women are directly and closely monitored by the police (article 2). All registered public women are required to have a health card and routinely (every week) undergo a medical examination to detect the presence of syphilis or other genital diseases (art. 8, 9, 10, 11).

  1. The prostitution during Japanese rule

The commercialization of sex in Indonesia continued to grow, during the Japanese occupation (1941-1945), all the women who were slaves as consolation women were gathered and put together in embroidered houses.

Not only women who had been the only entertainer who entered the embroidery house during the Japanese government, but also many women who were deceived or forced to do so. In a television show tells the story that there was a woman who was forced to be a consolation woman for the Japanese army in the ancient times. They are until now often mocked and ostracized by society because she is considered a prostitute.

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  1. The growth of prostitution complexes in Indonesia

At that time, the expansion of plantation areas, especially in West Java, the growth of sugar industry in East Java and Central Java, the establishment of plantations in Sumatra and the construction of highways and railways has stimulated the massive migration of male labor. Most of these workers were bachelors who would create demand for prostitution activities.

During the construction of trains connecting cities in Java such as Batavia, Bogor, Cianjur, Bandung, Cilacap, Yogyakarta and Surabaya in 1884, not only prostitution arose to serve construction workers in every railroad city but also development lodging and other facilities are increasing along with increased railway construction activities.

It is therefore understandable why many prostitution complexes grow around the railway stations in almost every city. For example in Bandung, prostitution complexes flourish in several locations around railway stations including Kebonjeruk, Kebontangkil, Sukamanah, and Saritem.

In Yogyakarta, prostitution complexes were established in Pasarkembang, Balongan and Sosrowijayan areas. In Surabaya, the first prostitution area is near the Semut Station and near the harbor in the Kremil, Tandes and Bangunsari areas. Most of these prostitution complexes are still operating today, although the role of trains as public transport has declined and the presence of lodging or hotels around the railway stations has also changed.

Those are the long history of prostitution in Indonesia. However, the government started to be little big stricter to eradicate the prostitution practice. The most popular prostitution ever in Java (Gang Dolly in Surabaya and Kalijodo in Jakarta) has been totally closed. The ex-inhabitants of the complex are reported live well without prostitution anymore.

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