Jakarta, IO – Beyond question, Indonesia is a big and lucrative market for drug trafficking in the national, regional and international networks. It is also strategically located near the Golden Triangle – the northern part of Southeast Asia, including Burma, Laos and Thailand – which is infamous as the largest heroin and opium producer on the planet.
Women, with their vulnerabilities, are often targeted as perpetrators, facilitating drug trafficking, and as victims. In a study conducted by Lead Advocate and Executive Director of the Women Working Group (WWG) Nukila Evanty in 2022, the findings showed that many women inmates were convicted of drug offenses. “I met Meiyani (an alias). She became a drug mule of methamphetamine-type narcotics with a pay between IDR 1.3 million to IDR 2 million for one transaction. During the trial, it was revealed that she took the job at her boyfriend’s urging. Several of the women I interviewed explained their involvement as drug traffickers. Some said they were framed by their husbands,” said Nukila.
In general, women turn to drug trafficking because of the lack of education, needs of living costs and low welfare. “Poverty places women in a weak bargaining position to take action, not to mention if they are financially dependent,” she explained.
Women’s involvement in narcotrafficking is nothing new. In general, women needing fast cash are often exploited by regional and international drug cartels. I still remember the case of Merry Utami, an Indonesian migrant worker who was arrested at Soekarno-Hatta Airport in 2001. She was found carrying 1.1 kg of heroin in a bag that her male friend Jerry asked her to bring. She knew Jerry when she worked in Taiwan. He exploited Merry’s cluelessness and lack of legal knowledge. Now, she has to face the death penalty.
There is also Tuti Herawati. Tuti was a victim of an international mafia syndicate and was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Sleman District Court, Yogyakarta, in May 2015.
Nukila said that during special interviews with women convicts in several prisons in Indonesia, she discovered that those women were unaware of the legal rules related to dealers and users. For example, they were ignorant of life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Migrant workers who are both victims and perpetrators of narcotrafficking are indeed the victims. They are clueless about the penalty they will receive when they become a mule.