Since the age of two, after her parents divorced, the Indonesian Melati (15) lives with her father at her grandparents’ place in Kediri. Already at a young age the Indonesian girl looses her father and grandfather. Melati is left behind alone with her grandmother. They are having a hard time and because of poverty Melati ends up in prostitution.
After her father’s death, their financial situation deteriorated and Melati felt lost. “My life was turned upside down and I often skipped school. More and more often I also hang out with the wrong friends who hang around bars and nightclubs.” Poverty forced Melati to drop out of school. She started working at a bar that also served as a brothel. Her friends already worked here as prostitutes and in order to earn enough money for herself and her grandmother, Melati followed her friends. She did not say a word about it to her grandmother. When the Surabaya police raided the place following an investigation into sexual exploitation of children in the brothel, Melati was arrested.
Terre des Hommes’ local partner SCCC found Melati. The organisation arranged for housing at a reception centre and offered legal aid during the criminal proceedings. She was also given psychosocial and medical care to cope with her experiences. Melati was offered the opportunity to return to school. She learned to bake doughnuts, which she could sell in order to financially support her grandmother. Melati has now moved back in with her grandmother. SCCC still supports her and together with her grandmother she now sells doughnuts in the streets. Twice a week she goes to school. Melati is optimistic about her future: “I no longer want to be a victim of sexual exploitation. I feel safe now. I used to be scared when I had to go to the police station. Fortunately there are still good people around who care about others. I want to continue living with my grandmother so that I can help her. I also want to finish school to find a better job. One day I hope to become a doctor.”
Commercial sexual exploitation of children is a phenomenon that affects 2 million children worldwide. Terre des Hommes Netherlands, Plan Netherlands, Defence for Children - ECPAT, Free a Girl and ICCO Cooperation are joining their specific expertise, strength and experience to put an end to commercial sexual exploitation in eleven countries in Asia and Latin America, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The Alliance named ‘Down to Zero’ enables children and young people to defend their own rights, enables communities to become safer and protective of their children against commercial sexual exploitation and enables governments to improve and implement related policies, laws and regulations in the eleven countries. The Alliance also collaborates with the private sector, for example in the tourist industry, in preventing and fighting sexual exploitation of children.