Chimoy flicks a lighter and draws a long drag until her cheeks collapse on the skinny Dunhill Mild cigarette, before exhaling a column of smoke.
Her no-nonsense, tough-girl attitude projects the confidence of a woman in her 30s, yet she is only 17. Colorful angel and butterfly tattoos cover her skin, and she wears a black T-shirt emblazoned with a huge skull.
Chimoy — by her own account and those of other girls and social workers — is a pimp.
She got into the business when she was 14. A boyfriend’s sister asked her to sell herself for sex, but she recruited a friend for the job instead. Then she established a pimping operation that grew to include a car, a house and about 30 working girls earning her up to US$3,000 a month — a small fortune in a poor country.
“The money was too strong to resist,” she said. “I was really proud to make money on my own.”
Two years ago, there were zero reports of child pimps like Chimoy who work as the boss with no adults behind the scenes in Indonesia. However, the Indonesian National Commission for Child Protection says 21 girls between 14 and 16 years old have been caught working as mamis so far this year, and there are likely far more.
It is easier than ever. Kids can use text messages and social media to book clients and make transactions without ever needing to stand on a dark corner in a miniskirt and heels.
“The sickening thing is you see 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds, getting into these practices,” said Leonarda Kling, Jakarta-based regional representative for Terre des Hommes Netherlands, a non-profit organization working on trafficking issues. “You think: ‘The whole future of this child is just going to waste.’”
Chimoy, who has occasionally worked as a prostitute, and other teens in the sex industry interviewed for this story are identified by their nicknames. The Associated Press does not typically identify children who have been sexually abused.
Recently, in the eastern city of Surabaya, a 15-year-old was busted after escorting three other teenagers to meet clients at a hotel. Police spokeswoman Major Suparti said the girl employed 10 prostitutes — including classmates, Facebook friends and even her older sister — and collected up to one-quarter of the US$50 to US$150 the teens received for each call.
She conducted business over the popular BlackBerry Messenger service and was earning up to US$400 a month, said Suparti, who uses one name, like many Indonesians. The girl also met potential clients in malls or restaurants first to size them up.
“She was running her pimp action like a professional,” Suparti said.
Human trafficking and sex tourism have long been big business in the vast archipelago of 240 million people, thanks to rampant corruption, weak law enforcement and a lack of reporting largely due to family embarrassment or little faith in the system.
The International Labor Organization estimates that 40,000 to 70,000 children become victims of sexual exploitation in Indonesia each year.
Much of this abuse is driven by adults, but poverty and consumerism play a role. Indonesia’s have-nots rub up against a growing middle class obsessed with the latest gadgets and the ultra-wealthy flaunting their designer clothes and luxury cars.
It was a smartphone that drove soft-spoken Daus into prostitution at age 14. The son of a factory worker and a street food vendor, the lanky boy said he was soon making US$400 to US$500 a month for having sex regularly with three women in their 30s and 40s.