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In Indonesia, crusading mayor tries to close down 'Dolly' red-light district

Published on Jun 16, 2014 11:29 AM
An Indonesian sex worker participates in a protest in Surabaya city's red light district popularly known as Dolly. -- PHOTO: AFP

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AFP) - Sex workers in skin-tight outfits sit in shop windows, ignoring the call to prayer that blares from mosques across the heart of one of Southeast Asia's biggest red-light districts.

The series of narrow alleys in Surabaya's "Dolly" district on Indonesia's Java island teem with prostitutes touting for business, smiling through the windows and doorways of dingy clubs and bars housed in crumbling buildings.

While foreign tourists may first think of places such as Thailand when it comes to South-east Asian red-light destinations, one of the largest has been challenging assumptions in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country for decades, largely undisturbed by authorities.

But now a crusading mayor - credited with regenerating Surabaya, Indonesia's second-biggest city after the capital Jakarta - is making a determined push to close down the notorious brothel network despite fierce resistance and warnings that it could push sex workers into destitution.

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