According to child protection teams, Facebook is being used to kidnap children and use them for sex trafficking. 27 of the 129 children reported missing in Indonesia this year are believed to have been abducted after meeting new Facebook "friends."
One child who met a new "friend" on Facebook has been found dead, The Daily Mail reports.
For unassuming 14 year old girls, a friend request from an older man can seem pretty intriguing, but sometimes, accepting what seems like a harmless friend request can lead a child into the terrifying world of sex trafficking.
One 14 year old Indonesian girl accepted a friend request from an older man she didn't know. They began chatting and she became smitten by his charms. The two exchanged phone numbers, and the 24-year old man began texting the girl quite frequently, The AP reports.
Finally, the man convinced the girl to meet him at the mall. He was just as charming, if not more so, in person. Perhaps the girl was developing a crush, or maybe she was just intrigued. Either way, the two agreed to meet again. This time, things wouldn't go as smoothly.
The girl told her mom she was going to visit a friend on her way to choir practice and climbed in the man's minivan. He drove her about an hour into the town of Bogor, West Java, the girl told The AP in an interview.
The man, who called himself Yogi, locked her in a small room inside a house where other girls aged 14 through 17 were also staying, living the exact same nightmare, she was about to endure.
She was drugged and wound up losing her virginity after being raped. She was raped again and again.
After the first week, "Yogi" told her she would be shipped to the island of Batam, which is known for its brothels and child sex tourism. Batam is close to both Singapore and Malaysia. It is a hot spot for transporting sexual victims, and is also used to cater to various men's sexual needs and fantasies.
During her interview, the 14 year old girl recalled crying hysterically, begging to go home. She was beaten and told to "shut up or die," she told The AP.
The girl was found near a bus terminal on September 30, and returned to safety. "Yogi" had dumped her there after learning her parents and others were searching for her," the South China Morning Post reports.
She returned to school the following Monday, but was told to return home because her story had "tarnished" the school's image, The Jakarta Post reports.
The school reversed this decision only a few days later, but the girl decided she does not want to return due to the humiliation and ridicule she would likely face, South China Morning Post reports.
"I am angry and cannot accept what he did to me. I was raped and beaten," the girl said, and just felt that the stigma she would face if she returned to that school would just be too difficult to handle.
Two years ago, child rights activists Syarifah Normawati and Urma Adolph, both from the Batam Agency, spoke to the Jakarta Globe about their struggle to stop the out of control spiraling of sex trafficking. Both women voiced concern about the victims' mental and physical health, and their fear that they couldn't curb this problem alone.
Indonesia is one of the top Facebook users after the United States, The Daily Mail reports. Around 50 million people in Indonesia are signed onto Facebook.
According to Anjan Bose, a program officer who deals with online child protection issues at ECPAT International , a nonprofit profit global network which helps children in 70 countries, feels that Indonesia is a "unique" case. It's not the only country dealing with the issue of sex tourism. Thailand has also long been known as a sex trafficking hot spot.
Human sex trafficking seems to be a huge problem in Southeast Asia in general, police and aid groups such as ECPAT say. The unique thing about Indonesia seems to be its growing rate of Facebook and Twitter users. It seems it is easier to form a correlation between frequent social media visits, kidnapping, and child sex trafficking.
According to The Daily Mail, Indonesian children and even their parents may love Facebook, but they are also unaware of the dangers of allowing total strangers to see their personal information, such as photos, their home address, phone number, and more, online. They are not familiar with the privacy settings Facebook offers, so it makes it easy for anyone to learn everything about them. Too often, this includes human sex traffickers, as in the case with the 14 year old girl and "Yogi."
Earlier this year, the US State Department said that Indonesia "was not doing enough to stop human trafficking," according to the Jakarta Globe.
This year's US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report, which was released on June 19, 2012, reported that Indonesia was a major source of human trafficking. They listed Indonesia's "rampant government corruption," "lack of law enforcement," and "weak legislation" protect migrant workers as the biggest factors for this issue.
The report noted that 2% of properly documented Indonesians working abroad become victims of trafficking, the Jakarta Globe reports. The number of undocumented workers is much, much higher.
The report also states that Indonesia is also used to transport men, women, and children for both "sex trafficking and forced labor."