Hundreds of police and soldiers raided a huge red-light district in Indonesia’s second-biggest city on Friday to close down brothels before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Scuffles briefly broke out between security forces and people protesting the raid in the area known as “Dolly” in Surabaya, on Indonesia’s main island, Java, where women advertise their services by sitting in brightly-lit shop windows.
“The raid was conducted to make sure that entertainment centers, including brothels, are closed during the whole month of Ramadan,” said Irvan Widyanto, a Surabaya official responsible for maintaining public order.
Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, begins today in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. The faithful are supposed to abstain from eating, drinking and sex from dawn until dusk during Ramadan.
The raid came about a week after the city’s mayor announced the closure of Dolly, but gave the prostitutes and pimps in the network of narrow alleys a few more weeks before the district is finally shut down.
The bid to close Dolly has sparked fierce resistance from sex workers and others whose jobs depend on the neighborhood, who have staged regular protests. The government has pledged to give them financial assistance and training in new professions.
About 500 police, soldiers and public order officers — who assist police in maintaining peace, but have fewer powers — were involved in Friday’s raid, a reporter at the scene said.
One large brothel in the area was closed down permanently, Widyanto said. Scuffles broke out when public order officers sought to take down banners condemning the closure of Dolly.
Islamic hardliners also regularly carry out raids on bars and brothels during Ramadan.