Indonesian Women Carry Drugs for Men They Love
Increasing numbers of women have been lured into becoming drug mules by the men they dated and loved, officials and activists said on the weekend.
The observations came after the National Police detectives unit arrested two widows, Frida Rizqy, 20, and Nurul Padilah, 38, for trying to smuggle 1.7 kilograms of heroin into the country on Nov. 23.
The pair was arrested at a rented house in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta. The drugs, police said, were handed to Frida by another Indonesian woman named Santi and two Nigerian men named John and Patrick in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hours earlier.
Nurul, police said, was Frida’s contact in Indonesia. Police said Nurul was forced to become a drug mule by her Nigerian boyfriend, named Emmanuel.
Last month, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) arrested another widow, identified as A.C., and her new husband, a Cameroon citizen identified as A., for allegedly dealing crystal methamphetamine.
A.C. is said to be a 35-year-old former journalist, known by her peers as a reserved woman when she began working for a business periodical in 2004. But she suddenly changed when she lost her husband to an illness and met her new boyfriend.
Women’s rights activist Oldri Shearli Mukuan said cases are rife of women who suddenly find themselves forced into drug smuggling rings by their new foreign boyfriends.
She cited an example of one young woman who got involved with a Nigerian man she met in Central Jakarta.
“The woman earlier thought her partner was in the carpeting business in Tanah Abang and was quite successful, which is why the woman agreed to become his lover,” Oldri said.
The activist, who is also an AIDS campaigner, said one day the Nigerian man took the woman to his country.
“But on the way back to Indonesia, during a brief stop in Hong Kong, [the woman] was arrested because in her bag [authorities] found drugs. This happened last year,” Oldri said, refusing to divulge the woman’s identity.
“It is important to provide comprehensive information [on the trend]. These young women only receive limited information [about drug syndicates] at school or from their surrounding communities. This is where the media plays a role in providing deeper information,” she said.
BNN spokesperson Sr. Comr. Sumirat Dwiyanto also acknowledged that such smuggling practices are becoming more and more common.
The female drug mules “are generally romantically involved [with a drug syndicate member]. They get married and are taken to his country and upon [the women’s] return to Indonesia their suitcases have been stuffed with drugs. That’s what typically happens,” he said.
“But there are also those who are fully aware of what they are doing,” Sumirat said, adding that these female drug mules are usually in their 30s and 40s and often the breadwinner in their family. “They do it for financial reasons. There are those who can get Rp 5 million ($521) to Rp 10 million for each delivery.”
Neng Dara Affiah, a commissioner at the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said that women need to be empowered at work, pointing to the high unemployment rate among women, making them vulnerable to drug syndicates, particularly divorcees and widows.
In some areas, tradition still dictates that women should stay at home instead of work. These women then lack the necessary skills and experience when they suddenly find themselves as breadwinners for their families, Dara said.
Sumirat said his agency is trying to create an awareness campaign. When women look for boyfriends or husbands, he said, they should examine their backgrounds.