Jakarta – Gerindra Party lawmaker Andre Rosiade's efforts to catch a prostitute in flagrante has drawn criticism from rights activists and watchdogs, who said that the West Sumatra politician's stunt did little to address underlying social problems.
On Jan. 26, Andre told West Sumatra Police that a sex worker was meeting a client in a Padang hotel room. The police's cybercrime unit raided the room, where they arrested a 27-year-old woman, identified only as NN, who they suspected of being a prostitute. The police did not, however, arrest NN's alleged client, who NN said had "used" her sexually.
Andre recorded the aftermath of the raid and posted it to his Twitter account the following Monday, saying that the he and the police had "exposed the practice of online prostitution" at the hotel.
He later said that a local resident had been the one to order NN's services but that his aide had provided the hotel room where she was eventually arrested.
He went on to say that the raid was important because online prostitution was rampant in Padang, and many people believed that it was one of the reasons why natural disasters hit the area.
"Do we want earthquakes in Padang? Do we want tsunamis in Padang?" he asked on Wednesday, as quoted by kompas.com.
Not everyone appreciated Andre's accomplishment, however. The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas PA), for example, condemned the raid and accused Andre of acting as a "morality police" and using NN for his own political benefit.
"Sacrificing a prostitute automatically makes someone's image look better by comparison," Mariana Amiruddin, a Komnas PA commissioner said on Tuesday, as quoted by covesia.com. "[Andre's] goal is not to overcome the real problem of prostitution, but rather it is to improve [his] image."
Fellow Komnas PA commissioner Siti Aminah Tardi echoed Mariana's comments, adding that the Criminal Code's article on prostitution was aimed at pimps rather than the sex workers themselves.
"It's odd that NN was arrested on a prostitution charge, because Article 298 [of the Criminal Code] is aimed at people who benefit from prostitution, and that means the pimps," she said.
Indonesian Ombudsman official Ninik Rahayu agreed with Siti, saying that the police should investigate whether or not the raid followed the proper procedures.
"We are all agreed that we should eradicate human trafficking, but we shouldn't forget about victim protection, and there certainly shouldn't be any arbitrariness in the process," Ninik said in a statement on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Padang women's group Nurani Perempuan Women's Crisis Center created an online petition calling for the West Sumatra Police to free NN. "NN is a victim and we support her," the petition said.
Andre, however, denied "trapping" the woman and said that the raid had followed the proper procedures. "The police will not name a person a suspect when there is not enough evidence," Andre said, as quoted by covesia.com.
NN, who is still in West Sumatra Police custody, said she hoped she would soon be free as she had left her child with her neighbor before she went to the hotel. (hol/kmt)