Subject: AN: Police investigate trafficking of women across West Timor border

[see 2nd half of article for police investigation of a suspected case of women being smuggled into neighboring East Timor.]


February 4, 2004 12:08am Antara

Cirebon, W. Java, Jan 31 (ANTARA) - Police have uncovered a people-trafficking syndicate in Cirebon which was recruiting teenaged girls for the sex industry in Batam, a spokesman said here Saturday.

Police arrested two members of the syndicate, identified as Agus Supomo, 51, and his son, Yossi Ruspandi, 20, said Taufik Asrori, chief of the Cirebon police's detective unit.

Taufik said the two suspects were running an operation in which teenaged girls were lured into the syndicate's bondage with promises of employment. After they had been snared, the girls were sold to a panderer in Batam for Rp400,000 per head.

"We also saved seven teenaged girls, residents of Cirebon, who had been brought to Batam and forced to work as prostitutes without their parents' knowledge," he said, The seven girls had been in Batam since last month.

The syndicate usually approached the victims with an offer to work as waitress in cafes in Batam with a monthly salary of Rp1 million but in reality the girls were sold to panderers.

One of the victims, El, said she had been forced to work as a prostitute and paid Rp90,000 a night.

The girls could not escape as they were constantly surrounded by bodyguards and being intimidated.

The two arrested syndicate members had broken Law No.23/2002 on protection of children and face a minimum jail sentence of three years and a fine of Rp60 million.

Separately, in Belu, East Nusa Tenggara, police are investigating a suspected case of women's trafficking in which women were smuggled into neighboring East Timor.

"We are investigating indications of women's trafficking based on information collected in the field although we have yet to receive a formal report on it," First Insp R Firdaus, chief of the Belu police's detective unit, said.

Firdaus referred to a recent happening in front of the Intan Atambua Hotel in which an East Timorese female was negotiating with motorbike-taxi drivers to take two teenaged girls across the border via a narrow path in Silawan village, Tasifeto subdistrict.

Informed sources told ANTARA , women's trafficking across the East Nusa Tenggara-East Timor border is being organized by a syndicate which have links with certain people in Belu.

After gaining information on teenaged East Nusa Tenggara girls who want to work in East Timor, the syndicate would arrange for them to be smuggled into the neighboring country.

Meanwhile, in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, the executive director of Women's Journal Foundation, Gadis Arivia, questioned the government's seriousness in combating women's and children's trafficking.

Provincial legislators were neither very helpful as they were busy with their parties' preparations to tke part in the general elections, Gadis said.

Indonesia, she added, was lagging far behind other ASEAN member ecountries in providing legal protection for its migrant workers, especially female workers.

Many Indonesian women were enticed to work abroad with high salary but in fact they were sold and forced to make a living as sex workers.

According to Gadis, the current law on children's protection could not cover all cases of women and children smuggling.

"The government and legislative body must make a law on women and children smuggling," Gadis said.


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