While the health care system was on the brink of collapsing, the pandemic has led to an increase in human trafficking cases while also hampering the fight against it. The Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection (KPPPA) recorded an uptick for two consecutive years compared to previous years.
The KPPPA recorded 256 human trafficking cases in 2021, an increase compared to 213 cases in 2020 and 111 cases in 2019. Child exploitation is also on the rise, with more than 165 cases reported in 2021 from 133 cases in 2020 and 106 cases in 2019.
Indonesia is included in Tier-2 in the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report by the US Department of State. The report stated that while Indonesia is making a significant effort to combat human trafficking, it failed to meet minimum standards for the eliminations of such crime.
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“Prosecutions and convictions decreased for the second consecutive year, and courts at times ceased processing civil and criminal trafficking cases without formal adjournments, verdicts, or legal justification,” the report reads.
Human trafficking is a serious crime, according to the 2017 anti-trafficking law, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. But on average, offenders spent around 45 months in prison. The national court data reported 226 prosecutions and 204 convictions, a continued decrease from 316 prosecutions and 279 convictions in 2018 and 407 and 331, respectively, in 2017.
Luh Putu Anggreni, a legal counselor at the Women Empowerment and Child Protection Agency, said human trafficking is a difficult case to deal with as there are many conditions before certain cases that can be regarded as trafficking. These include transporting, sheltering, and fraud (promising high salary). Yet, according to Anggreni, the police have difficulties in tracking and preventing and rely heavily on reports from activists or the public.
“Most trafficking cases happened in closed doors; in villas, spas, cafes, hotels, sometimes they went undetected until the victims came to report or if there’s a report from activists or public,” said Anggreni.
Thus, Anggreni said it is important to set up a monitoring system on a grassroots level, by empowering village leaders.
“It’s better if we can set up preventive systems in the smallest scale possible, for example in villages, by educating residents so that they can alert authorities whenever there’s suspicious activity,” said Anggreni.