Child Sex Tourism: A Case Study in Surabaya, Indonesia

 Journal of Developing Societies

To effectively protect children from child sex tourism (CST) and provide support services for CST survivors, the involvement of a lot of specialized organizations and personnel are required, namely, child protection services, law enforcement agencies, educators and early child care providers, healthcare providers, mental health providers, legal and judicial system professionals, substitute care providers, faith communities, various types of community organizations, and concerned citizens. To deliver support services to victims of sexual abuse, there is an urgent need for collaboration between institutions which must be guided by building and maintaining trust, reaching agreement on core values and staying focused on them, developing a common language about such abuse, demonstrating knowledge and respect for the experiences of the abused, assuming the positive intention of the parties, recognizing the strength, needs, and limitations of all parties, working through conflicts, and sharing decision-making, risk taking, and accountability. Similarly, in responding to the plight of the survivors, it is critical that the focus is placed on strengthening child and family services, expanding multi-sector/partner engagement, equipping professionals and service providers to recognize and respond safely to violence against children, strengthening the evidence about effective programs and mobilizing knowledge, and enhancing relevant data and monitoring.

The support services needed by sexually abused children can be classified into medical, psychosocial, judicial, and social services. To effectively provide the support services required by victims of sexual molestation calls for the participation of several professions, including social workers, doctors, nurses, police officers, magistrates, prosecutors, counsellors, and psychologists. In view of the range of services the survivors need, the support for recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration, requires the establishment of multidisciplinary teams of professionals including social workers, health workers, counsellors, psychologists, police, lawyers, and so on housed under one roof such as a university teaching hospital. For survivors to remain safe while recuperating, they deserve the collaborative intervention of educators, social workers, and youth justice workers among others.

CST is one of the motives of human trafficking that causes a devastating impact on the children who are victimized. To reduce the number of children involved in CST and to make sure there will be peace and justice for the victims, the underlying causes of CST need to be combatted. This is not a simple task, and a strong institutional response must be put in place to successfully carry out this endeavor. To contribute to this endeavor, this article provides a case study of the factors that underpin CST and what can be done to mitigate and/or prevent it.

The research for this case study took place during 2020–2021 in Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia. Qualitative research methods were applied. Interviews were carried out to explore the views and experience of the local informants with regard to CST in Surabaya, particularly their perceptions of the causes, impacts, techniques of recruitment, government efforts directed toward its eradication, strategies to eliminate it, and the main challenges and opportunities involved. This approach was adopted in response to the need to generate rich and original descriptive information about the views and experiences of those involved in one way or other and discern what exactly is happening in CST and what can be done to eradicate it. The research included in-depth interviews with 20 selected social workers who are involved in handling the abuses associated with CST.

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