What is Pasar Kembang? Probably not internationally known, yet quite famous in the eyes of the locals. Sarkem or Pasar Kembang is located in Yogyakarta, one of the biggest cities in Indonesia. Located close to Malioboro street and the train stations, Pasar Kembang (in English: Flower Market)–contrary to its name–is not an area where people sell flowers, instead, it is a well-known prostitution site where they offer sex workers to please anyone who seek pleasure.
Back in 2012, there was an event organized by a local organization known as P3SY (Yogyakarta’s Sex Workers Association) in cooperation with the IPPA (Indonesian Family Plan Association) known as “Live in Pasar Kembang”. The event was held to celebrate the “Elimination of Violence towards Sex Workers” Day. They invited a lot of participants, among others, Student Councils from Universities in Yogyakarta, Legal Aids, and other NGOs.
The main goal of the event was to change our point of view toward sex workers, to not judge them, start caring for them, and to stop the discrimination. A simple helping hand is all they need.
The opening of the event took place at 7 pm. After the opening ceremony, it was followed by a very interesting activity à Tour de Pasar Kembang. The facilitators guided us through the tour at Pasar Kembang, we wore nametags which showed that we weren’t visitors but instead students, so we were “safe” that night. We saw a lot of things on that night, the owners of the stalls, karaoke bars, and much more.
But thank god, there were some positives we found there, many posters about safe sex and condoms were available in every room, and when we asked one of the sex workers about the posters, she said “We do not serve the customer if they do not use condoms, we 've been educated to do so”. The tour ended at 11 pm.
The next day, the activity started at 06.00 am. Participants were invited to jog around the Pasar Kembang area where we’ve got the opportunity to have chat directly with the sex workers. They were so open they told us about the violence they experienced by the “guest” they worked for. They also told us that their friend–also a sex worker–was murdered and thrown into the river due to pregnancy and the man responsible did not want to admit the kid. A tragic story you will never know or understand unless you’re seeing it from their point of view.
The next schedule was breakfast and a discussion about the violence SEX WORKERS experienced, the health sector’s concern on HIV and STIs, the legal procedures regarding SEX WORKERS, and regulations that apply in localization of Pasar Kembang.