Combatting Human Trafficking in Jakarta, Indonesia and Beyond

May 13 – June 10 | By Jacob T. Martin

The first month of work in Indonesia was a whirlwind! I would venture to say being 10,000 miles away from home had something to do with it, but whether Jakarta was 100 or 10,000 miles from home, it is such a different culture with nothing reminiscent of the United States I’m used to, that getting adjusted took a little while.

From the start, I met Professor Talbot, whom I have been slated to operate under all summer, and we started discussing the plans for my summer. This is about as far from a traditional law internship as possible. I’m able to work at my own pace, everything is project based, I have an unlimited number of local people to ask questions and learn from, and I get to travel. It’s also different from a normal internship due to the two times I got food poisoning in the first month I’ve been here, I traveled to the top of an active volcano, read more pages of law than I thought existed anywhere, and have been able to give opinions and work with people to help make an entire legal system work better.

The work is focused on anti-human trafficking, and so far the brunt of my work has been to catch up and learn all of the local Indonesian law regarding the topic, the laws in Singapore that govern the same topic, and reading everything UNICEF and several other organizations have on the topic. This requires understanding that much like religious peoples of different religions have different values, different countries also have different values and something that the United States might consider “Universal” doesn’t mean that the rest of the world agrees.

Without getting too deep into the subject, Indonesia has overtaken Thailand as the number one sex tourism location in the world. This means that although Indonesian people are being shipped out to Singapore and Vietnam and other surrounding countries as sex workers and forced laborers, they also have a ton of traffic bringing trafficked foreigners into the country and then tourists come to have sex with all of the workers. The problem with that is that a majority of the sex tourism occurs in Bali, The island of the Gods, and for the government of Indonesia to admit that they have a sex trafficking/prostitution problem would likely change the amount of money and traffic of tourists that they have visiting the country. The government has to give in, and agree that it is a human rights violation to traffic someone against their will and force them to work or have sex with someone else and frankly we just aren’t sure if or when that will happen.

The trip has brought me to Bandung so far, but by the end of the summer I should travel to Surabaya, Singapore, Manado, and Bali for work. I will meet with people at victim shelters, in law offices, and in churches. With this work, I will be gathering information about as many specific cases as I can find to put together something consistent.

Moving forward we want to cut the head off of the snake in regards to the big guy with money in his pockets that runs the human trafficking trade, not just help victims. There are many organizations already fighting to save victims and help girls escape, we want to change the laws and help revolutionize an entire country starting with Indonesia, and then if given the chance to help Singapore as well we would do that!

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