Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Indonesia to fight modern slave trade with new laws

National News - November 06, 2006
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A senior Indonesian minister has promised the country will introduce new get-tough measures on human traffickers.

State Minister for Women's Empowerment Meutia F. Hatta told John R. Miller, the director of the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, that Indonesia hoped to pass an anti-trafficking bill currently being debated in the House of Representatives into law by the end of the year.

"We have drafted legislation that will allow harsh punishments for traffickers such as deceitful agents, rapists and corrupt state personnel," Meutia said Saturday.

Meutia and Miller, who is visiting Indonesia at the moment, visited Soekanto Police Hospital in East Jakarta. The hospital runs a clinic for the victims of trafficking, usually women and children, that is financially assisted by the U.S.

Indonesia is a well-known source, transit and destination country for trafficking. Men, women and children are traded for sexual exploitation and forced labor.

Victims are sent to countries including Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Many Indonesian women who go overseas to work as domestic helpers are subjected to exploitation and involuntary servitude, while an unknown number of child domestic workers face forced labor.

Meutia said it was hard for the ministry to trace the exact number of victims who had traveled abroad to work legally or illegally, as domestic helpers or sex workers.

"Many of our registered workers in Saudi Arabia, for example, have been transferred to Syria without notification," she added.

The lack of available statistics has meant the crime has long been underestimated by Indonesia.

Meutia sees the legislation as a step forward in the fight against modern slavery in Indonesia.

"Trafficking is something that we have to stop. The bill should be passed as quickly as possible, hopefully by the end of the year," said Miller.

Forty-one countries signed in comprehensive laws on trafficking last year, while the U.S. has had such legislation for six years.

"We give tough sanctions. Why not? They were involved in deceiving, raping and beating. The last two convicts were sentenced to 55 years in prison," said Miller.

Miller, who came to observe the victim assistance clinic in the hospital ward, said that the ward would serve as a model for the U.S., which is yet to develop a similar public facility.

The Recovery Center for Victims of Human Trafficking, which does not charge its patients, receives money from both the Indonesian and the U.S. governments.

The facility, also available in Surabaya, East Java, Makassar, South Sulawesi and Pontianak, West Kalimantan, has given comprehensive medical and psychological treatment to over 1,300 victims of both internal and cross-border trafficking.

"The U.S. is starting to develop education programs in order to change the attitudes of American men on the issue," he said.

Women and children, who are frequently subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse, make up 80 percent of victims worldwide. Several factors, such as poverty, exploitative agents and corrupt officials, contribute to trafficking.

"Those workers usually come from underdeveloped countries and go to developed countries," said Miller, who is also the senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on human trafficking. (03)



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