Just over three months ago, in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, at least 1,449 sex workers were evicted from the neighbouring precincts of Gang Dolly and Jalan Jarak – formerly home to the largest red light district in Southeast Asia.
The scheme was devised by the popular female mayor of Surabaya, Ibu Tri Rismaharini, who considered the closure of her city’s brothels to be a moral imperative according to the teachings of Islam.
As discussed in a previous blog post for Asian Correspondent, Risma’s shutdown measure has demonstrably failed to rein in Surabaya’s thriving sex trade. More accurately, in fact, the sudden closure of Dolly’s once flourishing brothels has merely opened up a Pandora’s box of street-level and clandestine prostitution, pushing Surabaya’s sex workers deeper underground and further from the purview of public health officials.
Meanwhile, outside of Surabaya, a similar balloon effect has been taking place on a national scale.
As was widely predicted back in June, a great number of ex-Dolly prostitutes have now migrated to other parts of Indonesia’s vast archipelago: many have turned to street prostitution in neighbouring towns and cities, whilst others have sought out new brothels in more permissive regions further afield.