One of the many campaign promises made by Anies Baswedan, the not-yet-official but assumed to be future governor of Jakarta based on the quick count results of last Wednesday’s runoff election, was to shut down the infamous Alexis Hotel, widely believed to be a high-class brothel (a claim which the Jakarta Tourism Department claims they’ve never found evidence for).
Since his unofficial victory, Anies has reiterated his promise to shut down the alleged institution of ill-repute. In fact, he has gone much further, claiming that he would not just shut down Alexis but all places of prostitution in Jakarta.
“In principle, we will handle all violations. So not just one. There is an impression that [we will only close Alexis]. No lah. We’re talking about all violations. So don’t have the impression we only want to target one place,” Anies said Thursday at Perindo Party headquarters in Menteng as quoted by Liputan 6.
Specifically, Anies has said that he will simply enforce Articles 42 and 43 of Jakarta Local Ordinance No. 8 of 2007 on Public Order, which prohibit public indecency, commercial sex work, and venues or entities that facilitate commercial sex work or immorality (although the law prohibits commercial sex work, it does not provide specific legal penalties for the act itself).
Based on 2014 data from the Jakarta AIDS Commission, Jakarta is home to at least 11,860 active female prostitutes, a number which does not include significant populations of male and transgender sex workers.
If Anies does in fact attempt to shut down all of Jakarta’s innumerable places of prostitution, he is likely to face serious resistance from the powerful business interests behind such venues. It’s worth noting that the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the capital’s other hardline groups have never mounted large-scale protests against Alexis or other well-known “adult entertainment” venues in Jakarta, lending credence to the rumors that their primary means of income is “protection” money paid by such venues.
In 2014, the city of Surabaya shut down Dolly, believed to be the largest red light district in Southeast Asia. The move was severely criticized by many activists for doing little more than forcing the sex trade underground, putting sex workers at greater risk of violence and sexually-transmitted diseases.