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Updated March 25, The grotty bedrooms and dingy hallways that make up Indonesia's red light capital are a far cry from the way sex is presented in popular fiction and glossy magazines. Far from finding liberation, the women here are in the business for survival, writes Amy Bainbridge. A few weeks ago, one of the Sunday newspaper magazines devoted its entire issue to sex.
It was in a Fifty Shades of Grey theme. There was a profile on Richard Pratt's former mistress and her business achievements. There were scantily clad women who might have been teenagers wearing racy bondage-themed outfits with thigh-high lace up boots.
There was article after article about sex, being sexy and feeling sexual. As I cast that magazine aside, I thought it was a bit over the top. But I didn't give the magazine a second thought until today. I'm in Indonesia filming stories on a trip that is sponsored by DFAT as part of a journalism fellowship. One of the stories I'm doing is on prostitution. It's not surprising that the reality of the industry here is an ugly contrast to the glossy, glamorous pages I was thumbing through a few weeks ago.
I'm writing this from the city of Surabaya, the so-called sex capital of Indonesia. To film this story, I've visited the city's red light district. There are many, many sad stories here. I've interviewed a prostitute who's trying to make ends meet for her two children back in her village.
I met a teenager who's just given up the trade at the age of I've spoken to a year-old girl who has quit sex work, and is now trying to encourage others to get out. None of the girls spoke fondly of their work. None were well-paid. Rather than feeling like the money they earned empowered them, they were scratching to survive.