“I didn’t want to do it, but I had to have the BlackBerry,” he said.
Indonesia is a social-media crazed country that ranks as one of the world’s top Facebook and Twitter users.
“If we don’t have a BlackBerry, we feel we are nothing and we are ignored by our friends,” Daus said.
However, the biggest issue is not money. It is problems at home, including neglect and abuse, said Faisal Cakrabuana, project manager of Yayasan Bahtera, a nonprofit in West Java Province’s capital, Bandung, that helps sexually victimized children.
Many girls end up on the street and connect with others facing similar situations. Sometimes they band together and rent a small room or apartment, with one girl emerging as the pimp.
Often she is the one with prior experience. The other girls may pay her in cash, booze and drugs, or simply contribute to the group’s rent and utilities, Cakrabuana said. In other cases, no money is collected at all from pimps, some of whom continue to receive support from well-off parents.
“They are just seeking what their family doesn’t give them: attention,” he said. “They make big families of their own.”
Chimoy was an only child living alone with her mom. She said her father was always gone, taking care of his four other wives. Polygamy is not uncommon in Muslim-majority Indonesia.
She recalls with a proud smile how she was always among the top students in her class, with a knack for business and cooking. At one point, she even opened a small shop selling traditional spicy crackers.
In sixth grade, Chimoy was already running with a tough, older crowd. She was drinking and regularly using drugs by ninth grade, when she dropped out of school to manage her prostitution business full time. She got pregnant and had her first daughter at 15. The second baby came a year later.
Chimoy worked at karaoke bars, sometimes also selling herself, and racked up a long list of clients. Money began to flow and so did the drugs. She became hooked on crystal methamphetamine, known locally as shabu shabu.
Initially, she had three girls working for her and later, many more. Most were 14 to 17 years old, but some were in their 20s. All waited for her call to meet a growing list of local and foreign customers in Bandung, a popular tourist town.
“We rented a house to live together,” she said. “It makes life easier to yell out: ‘Who wants this job?’”
Customers called or sent texts asking for a specific type of girl: tall or maybe light-skinned. Facebook was sometimes used to display photos of the girls, but Chimoy said no services were offered directly online.
Once, a client paid about US$2,000 plus a BlackBerry and a motorbike in exchange for a girl’s virginity, she said. Chimoy pocketed US$500 from that deal.
Nuri, a chopstick-thin 16-year-old with long auburn-dyed hair, said Chimoy is family and never demands a cut of her earnings. The girls decide how much to pay her. A high-school motorbike gang serves as their muscle.
“She’s different from my previous adult pimps because money doesn’t matter to her, but my safety means everything to her,” said 16-year-old Chacha, who started selling sex three years ago at a karaoke bar in western Indonesia.