Beranda Pustaka Blog Prostituted Children (Ayla) Under Capitalism And Patriarchal Systems

Prostituted Children (Ayla) Under Capitalism and Patriarchal Systems

Blog / Anak dan remaja rentan Mitra Payung : Yayasan SAMIN

By: Andeta Karamina

To realize equal and equally dignified citizen, it is not enough just to know the existence of marginal groups around us. Efforts are also needed to critically be able to unveil reality that allows marginalized groups, such as prostituted children (ayla), to be free from stigma and discrimination so that they are no longer part of the hidden population.

Ayla is one of many victims of the system of capitalism and patriarchy that run in society. The right to child protection that should be given by the state and the owner of the authority is abandoned due to the exploitation caused by the two systems. As a result, the structure produces a conception of the specific role of those who are lacking in power, which include women, children, the elderly, and men who are considered not to meet the standards of mainstream masculinity. [1]

Ayla’s friends are not only forced to shut up, but also silence themselves due to the stigma given by the community. This arises the thought that they are bound to be harassed and have no hope of rising from adversity. [2]

We can see thoughts on despairs due to this stigma in the writings of ayla’s friends entitled “3.5 Months 4 procurers”, which is a book containing the testimony of sixteen ayla.

The hope of changing the situation is blurred because of the status quo that is considered ‘normal’ in society so they think that they are inferior to others. This shows how deeply the values of capitalism and patriarchy have an impact on marginal groups, in which various forms of exploitation are allowed to occur in the midst of society.

Exploitative Structure and Marginal Group of Prostituted Children (Ayla)

Gender construction in society has created a hierarchy between femininity and masculinity, which often leads to specific conceptions of the position and role of men and women. In fact, child exploitation does not only occur in girls, but also in boys. Therefore, the marginalization of ayla is not a problem between men and women, but between a dominant community and marginalized people.

From the beginning, the exploitative structure that arose due to capitalism and patriarchy has created a gap for all parties without prioritizing gender status. Exploitation occurs to children so that it will never be justified. [3] Without an inclusive approach in society, the negative stigma and prejudice attached to ayla will be an obstacle for them to find hope and also become a boomerang for the realization of equal and equally dignified citizenship.

Power relations between gender and economic hierarchies place women and children in the lowest boxes in the community, making as it is “normal” for them to become victims of interests exploitation, not having the right to participate in decision making, and not having access to resources to meet their basic needs.

Therefore, a social inclusion approach is needed to deconstruct the stigma circulating in the society, as well as a counter alternative to the status quo conditions produced by exploitative structures. Ayla has the same rights as other people to have freedom and to access basic needs. These two structures that work congruently produce dominant narratives that make knowledge such as sex education taboo in society. Negative assumptions that have been labeled as “truth” without being accompanied by dissemination of knowledge that actually makes the culture, norms, and social values that exist in society become very patriarchal.

Sex education is important to be accessed by those who are vulnerable to exploitation because by doing so, at least they have a stronghold of science so that they are not easily caught up in material temptations that can be owned by selling their bodies. The understanding of sex education definition is greatly reduced by negative prejudice. In fact, actually, this education is about the introduction of body functions, the health of vital organs, the importance of consent, and many other things. [4]

The function of family as the first unit of social relations where norms and values are disseminated to children, for some ayla does not work due to the economic conditions they must face. This condition allows exploitation to happen because adult actors as well as children justify that they have no choice due to urgent economic needs.

The existence of children who are considered unable to make decisions for themselves makes them an ‘easy target’ for predators (procurers). The easy communication and increasingly developing digital technology provides an unlimited space for those who have bad intentions toward these children. The desire to accumulate capital blinds them from human values so they are able to sacrifice children to be prostituted for the sake of materials.

Dignified Citizenship and Democracy in the Society

The exploitation form of ayla not only shows how big the impact of capitalism and the patriarchal system in society on vulnerable groups, but also shows the weathered conditions in the foundation of democracy. Democracy instead of giving freedom to every society and guarantees the fulfillment of the rights of every citizen, becomes a trap for those who are considered a minority.

Fulfillment of the rights that should be granted by the state is not carried out not only because of weak state authority, but also because of the position of marginal groups as hidden populations. Ayla is one of those who are marginalized. Their existence is considered to be absent due to the role of the government and civil society that do not work at the sub-state level. As a result, their basic needs are rejected and the injustice they are facing is just an open secret, which was deliberately ignored because it provides profits for a handful of people who utilized the structure of capitalism and the patriarchal system.

Such democracy does not humanize those who are victims, but deny their rights from the start. Citizenship in this democracy become stratified and hierarchical [5], which will not embody equal and equally dignified citizenship. Public spaces that should be accessible to all components of society are only owned by those who have power, which in this case are the owners of capital who believe in the values of masculinity.

Ayla cannot access public spaces or give opinions and actively participate in policy making. Decisions concerning their well-being are taken by actors with power who actually have no clue about the level of exploitation that occurs at the sub-state or grassroots level. The approach to understand the ayla phenomenon is currently strongly colored by the patriarchal aspects and gender construction produced by the system because children who are victims, experience victim blaming and do not get the rights and justice properly.

Negative stigma and prejudice make them powerless to get out of this destructive structure because the contribution of general public is very strong in this practice. Pluralism upheld by democracy in Indonesia is not reflected in the ayla phenomenon, in which children have no place to play an active role in the decision-making process.

Children are considered helpless and only exist as parties who need security. In fact, the conception of security itself has from the beginning been biased due to the values of masculinity that emphasize material fulfillment. An understanding of the ayla phenomenon will not be understood comprehensively without using a social inclusion approach, which is based on a feminist perspective and aware of democratic values. This approach serves as a lens of critical analysis that not only provides an explanation of why the practice of child prostitution continues to occur, but also offers emancipatory solutions to be applied.

Social Inclusion Approach and Humanizing the Victim

Social inclusion, which is a process of building social relations and respecting individuals and communities, is carried out to abandon stigma and prejudice, and to deconstruct dominant narratives which have been regarded as legitimate truths by the community.

Every individual is equal and equally dignified, regardless of the background of sexuality, economy, family, and all the differences that exist. Access to the right to participate fully in decision making, economic, social, political, cultural, and access to resources cannot be based on age, ethnicity, race, sex, and other aspects.

Social inclusion encourages us to reconsider all knowledge that was previously considered fixed, such as the role of women and men in family settings and the general public, because all of these are the results of social construction created to meet the interests of certain actors. [6] Of course, social inclusion approach will help activists to be able to go directly to the field, with sufficient knowledge and covering all components, because this approach does not only look at the state/government as a party that needs security, but also focuses on the individuals incorporated in it.

Social inclusion can enable us to understand the importance of the state’s role as the authority owner in using its power to advocate, provide formal education, and provide institutions that humanize ayla in their rehabilitation process.

Social inclusion also gives us a room to think critically while at the same time applying the spirit of emancipation that feminism intends to achieve. The openness of thought and the dissemination of values at the informal level is also carried out in the hope that citizenship truly becomes equal and equally dignified. Through this approach, the ayla group is expected to be able to access the rights they should receive as citizens and children, with the government and general public who contribute to the protection function toward exploitation caused by the dominant structure.


This essay was written by Andeta Karamina for essay writing competition organized by Program Peduli. The views of the writer do not reflect the views of Program Peduli.