Teen housewife ran underage prostitution ring via Facebook, Indonesian police say


Indonesian police have arrested a teenage housewife suspected of running an underage prostitution ring via Facebook.

The Jakarta Police cyber crimes unit told the Jakarta Globe that the 19-year-old madam, identified only as M, was taken into custody along with seven underage girls in a hotel room in the capital as part of a sting operation.

Officers masquerading as potential clients arranged a meeting at the South Jakarta Hotel by masquerading as potential clients on the via the Facebook page, where they were also able to peruse albums and prices for various girls.

The girls allegedly charged between 800,000 and 1.5 million rupiah ($75 to $150) for sexual services, almost half of which went to M, senior police commissioner Rikwanto told The Saturday Age.

Cyber crimes unit head Audie S. Latuheru said police believed M had operated the prostitution racket for the past two years.

She recruited girls aged between 16 and 20 after befriending them in shopping malls in the poorer areas of Greater Jakarta, luring them with the promise of a big income.

“They were still students, aged around 16 to 17 years, from the Cibinong and Depok areas,” Latuheru said. “The children were invited to meet at a mall, then they were persuaded to take part.”

''The girls were motivated by economic reasons,'' Rikwanto said. ''They want to have a life like people they see in movies or on TV.''

M, who is married with a child, faces 10 years in jail if found guilty under the country's 2002 child protection law. She may also be charged with child trafficking.

The girls arrested with M were to be released after questioning.

The UN estimates that 100,000 children and women are trafficked in Indonesia each year.

"Child prostitution is on the rise, and one third of the sex workers are being under 18 years old," according to a Unicef report. "The underlying causes of child trafficking include poverty and lack of economic opportunities for young people, the low status of girls, high demand for commercial sex, cheap labor, weak law enforcement, discrimination and conflict."

The Age, meantime, cited Andy Yertiani, from Indonesia's National Commission on Violence Against Women as saying that blaming Facebook was unlikely to solve the problem.

''The issue is not how people are using social media but how other systems, economic, education and others, make women vulnerable and see them become involved in prostitution,'' she said.

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