Chimoy is a no-nonsense 17-year-old Indonesian girl who runs her own business and who has dreams of one day meeting her prince and living happily ever after. Like a lot of girls her age, her cell phone is never quiet. But the calls and texts are not the normal messages you would expect to see on a teenage girl’s phone. Nor are they from her friends, parents or a boyfriend. All of the calls are from men who are looking to book girls from Chimoy.
Chimoy is a pimp. And she is not unique. She was just one girl who was featured in an Associated Press report on child pimps working in Indonesia.
The Indonesian National Commission for Child Protection reports 21 girls between the ages of 14 to 16 have been caught pimping other young girls this year. This is not a normal practice, even for Indonesia, where somewhere between 40,000 to 70,000 children become victims of sexual exploitation annually, the AP reports. Human trafficking and sex tourism have long been a huge business in Indonesia, but this is the first time there have been reports of young girls running some of the operations. Chimoy, who has herself worked as a prostitute, was only identified by her nickname in keeping with the AP’s style of not identifying minors who have been sexually abused. She told the AP that she got into the prostitution business at 14, when she booked a friend for a gig that was originally offered to her. Now, her pimping operation has grown to include a car, a house and around 30 girls earning her up to $3,000 a month.
“The money was too strong to resist,” she told the AP. “I was really proud to make money on my own.”
The report found that social media has enabled these teenage girls to run their operations rather seamlessly. That and the use of smart phones are a big part of this business. Why go standing in dark corners and run the risk of getting caught when you can simply book clients through texts and social media?
Anjan Bose of ECPAT International, a nonprofit global network that helps sexually abused children, says that in Thailand and the Philippines, teenagers voluntarily go online and strip in front of webcams for customers in Western countries.
So what motivates these young girls to be sucked into this dark business? Money is a large issue, but there is also a problem of lack of attention given to these teenagers, as well as the poverty and consumerism surrounding them. AP reports that there is a growing middle class obsessed with luxurious goods, the latest gadgets and designer clothes.
Dr. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, director-general for human rights in Indonesia, told ABC of Australia that materialism and the media’s portrayal of materialism are to blame.