Jakarta, IO – Article 3 of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (the Palermo Protocol) defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control of another person, for the purpose of exploitation which shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery servitude or the removal of organs.”
The Indonesian government addresses the scourge of human trafficking by enacting Law 21/2007 on elimination of human trafficking crimes (UU PTPPO) in April 2007. Article 58 of the law mandates coordination between the central government and regional administrations and the establishment of a special task force to combat human trafficking. The government has also issued Presidential Regulation (Perpres) 22/2021 which amended Perpres 69/2008 on Task Force to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Members of the interagency task force consist of 24 ministries/agencies divided into six sub sectors – monitoring/prevention, health and social rehabilitation, repatriation and social reintegration, law enforcement, development of legal norms and coordination/cooperation. However, these measures have turned out to be insufficient to optimally solve the problem of human trafficking and deliver justice to its victims.
According to the Women and Child Protection Database (SIMFONI) compiled by the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry (KemenPPPA), which chairs the National Task Force on Human Trafficking (Satgas TPPO), there were 2,356 reported victims of human trafficking in the 2017 to October 2022 period. The majority of those were children (50.97 percent) and women (46.14 percent). Men constituted 2.89 percent. In fact, since 2019 there has been on the rise in the number of reported victims of human trafficking, from 226 in 2019 to 422 in 2020 and 683 in 2021. In the January-October 2022 period, 410 victims have been reported. Official figures for human trafficking in Indonesia are just the “tip of the iceberg” as the crime often goes unreported.
Not many people realize that human trafficking is a common issue that transcends races, social classes, demographics and gender. In many cases that the author encountered in the field, human traffickers often recruit victims to be employed as migrant workers from remote villages, exploiting their poor living conditions and lack of education. They are then transported from one location to another before ending up in the destination country where they are exploited for forced labor; for example, domestic workers laboring away for 15 hours a day without getting paid. Human trafficking is also often interlinked with sexual exploitation which mostly victimizes women and young girls (under the age of 18). In the case of minors, traffickers often provide them with fake identities by misrepresenting their age on their travel documents so they can be employed.
Sexual exploitation began when these women are recruited with the false promise of working in restaurants or attending shops. But once they arrive in the destination country, they are forced to work in brothels. There are also cases of “mail-order brides” where young women from poor families are offered as brides to much older men in the hope that they can have a better life. However, instead of a happily married life, they are often deceived into becoming drug mules in the international drug trade. When caught, they are often sentenced to life imprisonment or even death.