Cases of modern-day slavery shock Indonesia

World Today

The number of Indonesians trapped in modern-day slavery has tripled since 2013 to more than 714,000, according to the non-profit Walk Free Foundation’s 2014 Global Slavery Index. CCTV’s Andy Saputra reported this story from Jakarta, Indonesia.

Many of Indonesia’s migrant and domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to slavery due to lack of legal protections, activists said. One such case, where 50 workers were enslaved in a household factory outside of Jakarta, recently shocked the nation.

“They took everything from me, I wore one shirt and one pants, we slept on the floor a wet, windowless room overflowing with human waste for 6 months… They beat me, they beat me almost everyday… for no reason,” said Dirman, who was enslaved in the factory.

Dirman was forced to work with dangerous chemicals from 5 a.m. to midnight. They were held captive by armed guards and given no pay.

“I tried to escape, but they caught me and brought me back, they gathered everyone, they shot the floor just in front of my feet to warn the others not to escape… I was then stripped naked and six or seven men beat me… My arms and legs were bound… I felt like an animal,” he said.

Some of the enslaved men managed to escape and notified the authorities who then raided the factory.

The high-profile case opened many people’s eyes that slavery still takes place in Indonesia, said Syamsul Munir of Indonesia’s Commission on the Disappeared and Victims of Violence.

“This case brings forward the bigger problem, first is that modern day slavery still happens in Indonesia, located just outside the capital no less, imagine what is happening in remote parts of the country. Second, the fact that local authorities are involved in covering up, shows a weak control by the government both in protecting its people and law enforcement,” he said.

According to the Walk Free Foundation’s Slavery Index, Indonesia ranks eighth out of 167 countries based on the total number of people subject to abuse such as forced labor, servitude, or sexual exploitation. When based on a percentage of the total population however, Indonesia ranks 102nd. India had the most number of enslaved people at 14 million, followed by China at 3.2 million. However as a percent of their country’s population, the percent of enslaved people in India was the fifth highest in the world, while China ranked 109th.

The wide gap between wealth and poverty, high levels of unemployment, and corruption, create an environment in which modern slavery flourishes in Indonesia. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has pledged that the country’s new government will focus on providing more protection measures for workers and migrant workers.

“One big problem here, is that the government has increasing legitimacy in the international world while the number of human rights cases keeps increasing,” Munir said. “That means there’s a danger of losing the political will to solve and prevent these cases with real actions instead of just lip services.”