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Saying goodbye to sex work in Jakarta

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Former sex workers from Jakarta's demolished red-light district offered vocational training for other jobs

With Jakarta's largest red-light district torn down, focus is now on rehabilitating the sex workers.

The 1.6ha Kalijodo, considered one of the biggest red-light districts in south-east Asia, was demolished on Feb 29 as part of Indonesia's nationwide effort to eradicate prostitution.

Kalijodo, which was home to thousands of sex workers, is the latest red-light district in Indonesia to be shut down.

DEMOLISHED: Bulldozers knock down buildings in Kalijodo red-light district of Jakarta, Indonesia, on Feb 29 as part of a nationwide effort to eradicate prostitution. PHOTO: REUTERS

The country has already closed down about 70 and it wants to close the rest - about 100 more - by 2019.

And in an effort to get the sex workers back into the mainstream, the federal government has been working with regional governments, the Jakarta Post reported.

The workers, particularly those from outside Jakarta, who take up the offers will be trained at the ministry's women social working facility, said Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa.

"This place is open for all former prostitutes from outside Jakarta. We will register them after they arrive here," she said.

A student washing another student's hair at a government-funded training centre that provides vocational training to former sex workers in Jakarta. PHOTO: REUTERS

After the demolition, about a third of the estimated 3,000 people living there, mostly illegally, were moved to two of 27 blocks of government flats in Marunda, north Jakarta.


Hundreds more were moved to a similar public housing complex in Pulogebang, East Jakarta.

Those without proper Jakarta identity documents, including some 450 sex workers, were asked to return to their home towns in other parts of Indonesia.

Last Monday, under high security, bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes and sex-oriented businesses in the Jakarta neighbourhood, which the governor wants to turn into a park, Reuters reported.

Anas Effendi, West Jakarta's mayor, said: "First, we need to demolish all houses and revert the land to be used for a green open space, which has been the main function of the area since the very beginning.

"Once it is all completed, we will rebuild the area immediately."

The order to demolish the area came after a drunk motorist killed four people in Kalijodo last month.

The authorities gave Kalijodo's 3,000 residents a week to clear the area.

Some of those relocated are finding it difficult to find work.

Ms Kania Fauziah, whose husband was a caretaker at a Kalijodo entertainment business, said: "My husband is still jobless."