Friday, November 13, 2009

From Prostitution Haven to Islamic Hub

By  Dandy Koswaraputra IOL Correspondent

The complex has become a symbol of the growing religiosity and morality in Indonesia.
JAKARTA — Walking down the alleys around Jakarta Islamic Center, Sri Hartati brushes off bitter memories of the place’s history and her connection with it.
“I still shudder when I think back of those days,” Sri, who sells cakes at the Center’s compound, told
Ten years ago, the 38-year-old was one of nearly 1,615 sex workers in the infamous red-light neighborhood of Kramat Tunggak, known as prostitution village, in northern Jakarta.
They have undergone a rehabilitation program by the Jakarta administration after the closure of Kramat Tunggak, the second biggest sex-trading complex in South East Asia.
Besides the sex-workers, almost three hundreds pimps, seven hundreds servants, eight hundreds street vendors and more than one hundreds motorbike taxi drivers and other stakeholder of now-defunct industry also took part in a counseling series by the administration.

The Kramat Tunggak complex, built in 1972, used to be a center for crime, drug dealing and illegal porn.
It was demolished on December 31, 1999, by the Jakarta administration following a series of protests from Islamic groups led by the Islamic-rooted Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
In 2003, the Jakarta Islamic Center Mosque was established on an eleven hectares land, with a towering minaret lighting up the sky.
The 6,000-meter-square building is now a destination for seekers of Islamic studies and its mosque has the capacity for 20,000 worshippers.
The complex has become a symbol of the growing religiosity and morality in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Indonesia has a population of more than 220 million; about eighty five percent of them Muslims.
Changing Lives
 Sri says she is one of thousands of people whose lives have been affected by the demolition of the prostitution village.
“Most of us chanced professions to be vendors, hairstylists and even kindergarten teachers.”
Besides her work as a cake vendor, Sri, now a mother of two after marrying an ex-security officer of the mosque complex, is also a professional tailor.
“I took the sewing course,” she recalled.
“I receive orders for tailoring clothes, but during Ramadan I am also selling snacks for iftar.”
Rina Uswatun Hasanah, the secretary of the Jakarta Islamic Center, asserts the mosque complex has changed the social structure of the people in the northern Jakarta slum area.
She noted that some of the ex-sex workers are working in the center, while others run small private businesses.
Many have become more familiar with Islamic teachings performing prayers regularly in the mosque.
“During this Ramadan, they have held many Islamic events, like Nuzul- Al-Qur’an,” she said.
“Alhamdulillah, they have significantly changed.”

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