Masseuses told to padlock pants

JAKARTA Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:23pm EDT

A policeman checks two masseuses and their customers during a raid at a hotel in Changchun June 16, 2006. REUTERS/China Daily

A policeman checks two masseuses and their customers during a raid at a hotel in Changchun June 16, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/China Daily

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A bid by a local government in Indonesia's East Java province to curb prostitution by asking masseuses to wear a padlock on their pants was an insult, a newspaper quoted the minister for women's empowerment as saying.

The recently implemented policy in the tourist area of Batu was misguided, State Minister for Women's Empowerment Meuthia Hatta told the Jakarta Post on Thursday.

"It is not the right way to prevent promiscuity. It insults women as if they are the ones in the wrong," Hatta said.

The paper showed a photograph of a masseuse with a padlock on the waist band of her trousers and said the local administration's move was aimed at curbing prostitution and maintaining Batu's image as a popular tourist destination.

The best way to curb prostitution in massage parlors was to improve security systems including installing CCTV, Hatta said.

Batu, 75 km (46 miles) south of Indonesia's second-biggest city, Surabaya, is a popular tourist destination for its cool climate, hot springs and mountain scenery.

Indonesia has a flourishing sex industry and massage parlors are frequently a front for prostitution. But there has been a vigorous debate over morality in recent years, exposing deep divisions in the Southeast Asian Muslim-majority nation.

Last month, Indonesia passed a bill to restrict access to pornographic and violent sites on the Internet, while parliament has yet to pass a controversial pornography bill that aims to shield the young from pornographic material and lewd acts.

Earlier draft versions contained provisions that could jail people for kissing in public and criminalize many forms of art or traditional culture that hinge on sensuality, sparking criticism it could curb freedoms and hurt Indonesia's tolerant traditions.

(Reporting by Mita Valina Liem and Telly Nathalia, editing by Ed Davies and Michael Perry)

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