Woman, 7-months pregnant, arrested for soliciting herself and friend for threesome, says she needed money for hospital fees

Last week’s big news in Jakarta was the closure of the Alexis Hotel, which recently inaugurated Governor Anies Baswedan said was just the beginning of a moral crusade to eradicate prostitution in the capital. The mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, has been on a similar crusade during her years in office. Her decision to close Dolly, once Indonesia’s biggest red-light district, in 2014 was hailed by many in the East Java capital as a moral victory, but many women’s rights advocates and public health experts say that it mainly succeeded in driving desperate sex workers further underground into more dangerous work.


READ Dolly Revisited: The brothels are gone but the sex trade lives on


It’s important context to understand the story of a woman who was arrested in Surabaya last week for allegedly prostituting herself and a friend through social media. Police say they arrested the 27-year-old, identified by her initials FWS, last Monday while she and her friend were with a customer in a hotel room.

“The suspect was arrested on October 30, 2017. She was arrested because she offered a threesome sex service. When she was arrested, the victim, as well as the suspect, were naked, serving a guest in room number 302 in a hotel in South Surabaya,” said Lily Djafa, head of public relations for the Surabaya Police, at a press conference last Thursday as quoted by Liputan 6.

The act of prostitution is actually in and of itself not illegal in Indonesia, but since FWS offered her friend’s services as well through her Facebook account, she was charged under the 2007 Human Trafficking Law, as well as under articles of the country’s Criminal Code covering coercion of others into lewd acts and profiting from a woman having sex. Under the Human Trafficking Law, she could face up a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail.

According to police, FWS had offered up the services of herself and her friend for IDR700,000 (US$50) for two hours. She was supposed to have received IDR300,000 while her friend was to receive IDR400,000 (and yet despite making less money FWS is being charged with exploiting her friend).

Of course, the saddest aspect of the case is that FWS is 7 months pregnant. She told police and the media that the money was supposed to cover the costs of her labor at the hospital.

“I am seven months pregnant, but (when I was arrested) my husband did not know that I was working, I did this because our economic needs are very urgent,” she said at the press conference while wearing a white mask to help protect her identity.

While the costs of childbirth at a hospital should theoretically be covered by Indonesia’s national health insurance program (BPJS), in reality many people don’t know about the program or aren’t signed up for it and many hospitals have been known not to accept it despite being required to. For example, one woman with labor complications tragically saw her baby die after she was refused care by seven hospitals in Bekasi despite being enrolled in BPJS.

The crusade against prostitution is supposed to be about helping to protect vulnerable women. And yet here it seems we have is a case in which a woman who was desperate to make money to help her baby will likely face jail time for trying to help her friend earn money as well. Now her life and her child’s life are likely ruined. Some moral victory.

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