Kalijodo, one of Indonesia’s oldest red-light districts was demolished Monday as authorities plan to eradicate prostitution in the country.
Dozens of illegal bars and brothels along the polluted riverside strip of north Jakarta were destroyed by excavators in an operation led by hundreds of policemen and soldiers.
Nevertheless, it was home to about 3,000 people including legal businesses, such as food shops, and families that have lived in the district for decades.
Last week, Indonesian authorities announced their intention to eradicate prostitution in about 100 hot spots of the archipelago, by 2019. Indeed, selling one’s body is not allowed in the largest Muslim country in the world even if it’s rampant practice and often implicitly approved in major cities.
Moreover, during the eviction of residents over the past week, police seized and destroyed large quantities of alcohol. Even if the consumption of alcohol is officially authorised in Indonesia, high taxes are applied on alcoholic beverages, as Islamic parties pressure the government to apply restrictive measures.
North Jakarta Mayor Rustam Effendi, who oversaw the demolition, said the buildings were illegal and the demolition would make way for a public park. “There was open prostitution there and all kinds of other things as a result, like liquor,” he told AFP.
Inspector General Tito Karnavian also said: “There is a wide range of illegal activities there, from those related to thuggery, bootleg liquor, narcotics, to prostitution.”
According to AFP, a fatal accident provoked by a man who had been drinking in the district urged the authorities to take action.
If there were fears that protesters would try to disrupt the demolition, all inhabitants agreed to leave in the days beforehand, allowing the operation to happen smoothly.
However, ABC reported many people were negatively affected since they lost their homes and businesses.
Sobari, a food seller in Kalijodo, said the decision to demolish his home was particularly unjust because he had been paying land tax for the past 15 years and will now be entitled to just three months of free rent in a new apartment.