Monday, December 3, 2012

Indonesia’s Desperate Women At Risk of Exploitation

Indonesia is increasingly seen as a lucrative new market for international drug cartels and smugglers. This is no surprise given that the illicit drug trade in the country is now worth more than $4 billion annually.

According to the National Narcotics Agency, there are between 3.8 million and 4.2 million drug users in Indonesia, 22 percent of whom are students and young adults. It is thus no wonder that drug smugglers, particularly from Africa, are using all means to bring drugs into the country.

The latest worrying trend is the use of desperate Indonesian women as drug mules or carriers. These women, often widows with mouths to feed, are wooed by foreign men who take them back to their country. On their return to Indonesia, the women are either forced or duped into carrying the drugs.

Several such cases surfacing recently have set alarm bells ringing among authorities and nongovernmental organizations. Women’s rights activist Oldri Shearli Mukuan noted that many of these women find themselves in a situation they cannot control or escape from and, facing pressure from boyfriends and husbands, feel compelled to enter the illicit, but highly profitable, drug trade.

Combating this trend must therefore become a top priority and the most effective solution is to provide women with greater economic opportunities.

Giving them training and new skills will help them find employment and stay out of the clutches of the drug syndicates. Over the longer term, giving girls the opportunity to gain a formal education and equal opportunities are the best solutions to arresting this trend.

In the short term, the government should work with nongovernmental organizations to raise awareness, especially in rural areas, of the tactics that such syndicates use. The fight against drugs must involve the entire community. The government alone cannot succeed. Jakarta Globe

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