The Indonesian Council of Ulema is claiming success with a prostitution-buyout scheme, administered in conjunction with the East Java provincial government.
According to the council, known as the MUI, the program offers an incentive of Rp 3 million ($340) for sex workers who leave the business.
“This is a step in eradicating prostitution complexes in East Java. Thankfully, there are 20 women who have repented,” said Abdusshomad Buchori, the head of the provincial chapter of the MUI.
The women were working in the government-sanctioned Bangunsari prostitution complex in the port city of Surabaya.
Besides the cash handout intended as startup capital to begin small businesses, the women were given vocational training, Abdusshomad said.
“Skills are needed to succeed back in their home towns. We aim to eradicate prostitution but with solutions, not simply by evicting them willy-nilly,” he said.
Besides Bangunsari, Surabaya is also home to several other prostitution centers, including the notorious Dolly strip of brothels in the heart of the city.
At Bangunsari alone, Abdusshomad said, the number of sex workers has declined from thousands to around 150 since the program began.
One of the women who has taken the offered cash and returned home is 46-year-old Sri Anjarwati, of Mojokerto, 50 kilometers west of Surabaya.
“I work here because I am taking revenge against my husband, who cheated on me. But now I realize that this work is sinful and not permitted under my religion,” she said.
“Hopefully my repentance will be accepted,”
Sri said she plans to use the Rp 3 million to open a food stall in her sister’s village in nearby Ngawi district.
“I want to open a warung there. I chose to repent because I witnessed many of my friends dying of infectious diseases. Before that happens to me, I wish to ask forgiveness,” she said, crying. Antara