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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Understanding Forced Labor in Indonesia

By Jacob T. Martin

Working in an office has limits. This is true in California, Sydney, and Jakarta. It doesn't matter what time zone you are in, or whether you see things as an outsider or not. When working in the sex trafficking world, it becomes apparent that law in theory and law in practice probably don't line up.

Having been in Indonesia since May 13, I'm well-adjusted to the people and culture at this point. I've also read all necessary laws in Indonesia, all recommended ways of handling problems from the UN, and read many local laws from Singapore as well as the United States on the subject of human trafficking, sex work, forced labor, and really just trying to understand what is the real modern slavery.

In the second half of my summer, my professor connected me with multiple NGOs across Indonesia and Singapore. He then told me to GO. I was to go and visit each of the NGOs. Talk to them about my research. Talk to them about what we want the future to look like and how do they think we can get there. I met with Justice Without Borders, Hagar International, and HOME in Singapore. As well as a church called the Oikos Fellowship or GBG. The reason I met with all of these different groups, is that they all focus on different areas of human trafficking.

Hagar focuses on law and then rehabilitation centers that they have spread through southeast Asia.

Justice Without Borders tries to help immigrant workers by telling them after they have been wronged it is ok for them to return to their home country, and JWB will help with their legal troubles and try to get them paid by the business that wronged them.

HOME is the one group that I was around, but didn't speak to directly. They are in the same field.

Oikos Fellowship has been walking the street of The Geylang area in South Singapore for 14 years now. This is what you would call the Red Light District of Singapore. Although Singapore has multiple Red Light Districts, this is the one that would be most recognized. What they do is bring snacks or "gifts" for the "sisters" on the street and the "brothers" that are in charge of them. By doing this, they have created good relations with many of the locals and are allowed to talk to the girls. By doing this, they are able to pray with them, make them feel better about their situation, and also find out which girls are there against their will if possible. The problem in Singapore, and Indonesia, and everywhere… is that demand for cheap/paid sex isn't going away. In many situations the demand is growing. So in Indonesia where small village workers may expect to make $200 USD per month or so, these girls can make that much in 1/2/3 days depending on how much work they want to do. This means in a month they might make more than they would in a year in their home town. Oikos has seen this go up and down for the 14 years and had a lot of valuable information to pass along about what they have seen.

I then was sent over to Surabaya after a short respite in Jakarta and in Surabaya worked with Compassion First. They told me about what they are trying to do in this small community that is known for high crime and how education and positivity has changed many interactions in the whole community there. Their ultimate proposition is for education to be increased, cheaper or free, better, whatever needs to be done so that smaller villages in Indonesia aren't left out to fend for themselves against organized crime lords who run the girls around for sex objects.

The work is still heavy and I will next be going over to Manado, Indonesia where there is a victim shelter. These women were trafficked and forced to work as sex workers. I will have to be soft and pray and be sensitive to the girls and topic, but I could learn some valuable information from them about what could have prevented them getting caught up in the net, and what they would recommend to help the next girl not get stuck in it.