Jakarta is a hotbed for prostitution, with over 13 000 workers in the capital alone.
Traditionally, it is thought that people enter the sex trade industry in an attempt to avoid poverty. Sex workers can be paid anywhere from 300 000 – 500 000 rupiah for a sex service, and prostitutes may see up to five clients per day.
However, poverty is not the only factor driving people to sex work.
Jakarta’s transgender community is evolving and expanding, though Head of Srikandi Sejati Foundation, Lenny Sugiarto says that transgender people are still considered “social misfits”.
The Srikandi Sejati Foundation based in East Jakarta advocates for the Indonesian transgender community. The Foundation offers health checkups, education programs, a support network, and campaigns for transgender rights.
Transgender women, known as waria, are excluded from the community, isolated, and made to feel worthless and unloved. As a result, transgender women seek a sense of validation through sex work.
Ms. Sugiarto blames Indoensia’s conservative Islamic values for the exclusion of transgender women, and the LGTB community at large.
“In developed countries, there are places for transgenders and gays to mingle and have fun. This is not the case in Indonesia. The Indonesian community wants to isolate transgenders as much as possible. They want to remove their rights to freedom and expression,” she says.
Although sex-work is considered illegal within Indonesia, its illegal status does not stop prostitution from occurring. Sex work provides a forum for transgender women to express themselves.
Ms. Sugiarto explains that transgender women often reduce their service cost for clients. She says that sometimes they will even work for free just so that they can feel loved.