Indonesian Women Preyed on by Drug Traffickers | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Indonesian Women Preyed on by Drug Traffickers

Pressured by love and money, female drug mules in Indonesia are becoming more common, despite the threat of the death penalty.


The kind of pellets that drug mules often have
to swallow. Photo via

By Sarah Beller


| Share

As the Jakarta Globe reports, an increasing number of Indonesian women—as elsewhere in the world—are lured into the dangerous role of drug mule by men. Indonesia is seen by international drug cartels as a profitable new market, with an illicit drug trade now worth over $4 billion a year and between 3.8 million and 4.2 million drug users, according to the country's National Narcotics Agency (BNN). So it's no wonder that smugglers are using all means, including desperate women, to import drugs. These women, often widows with children to feed, are frequently wooed by foreign men, who then take them to their own countries. The women are then sent back to visit Indonesia, and are either forced or tricked into carrying drugs. Several recent arrests of widows are worrying Indonesian authorities, NGOs and activists. 

BNN spokesperson Sr. Comr. Sumirat Dwiyanto says that these practices are becoming more common, adding that female drug mules are usually in their 30s and 40s and often the sole earner for 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.” Women’s rights activist Oldri Shearli Mukuan says that many of the women also face pressure from their new foreign boyfriends; they often don't know what they do when they meet them, and once they find out, it's too late. Oldri cites an example of one woman who thought her new boyfriend was in the "carpeting business." In Indonesia, drug trafficking is punishable with death by firing squad. Yet an even greater danger may be the rupturing of one of the pellets in a mule's stomach: smuggling methods include hiding drugs in luggage or clothes, concealing them on the body, or using the body itself as a container. "Body packing" involves drugs like cocaine and heroin being placed in condoms or other latex wrappings, then swallowed. A mule typically swallows up to 125 pellets, containing up to 1.25 Kg of drugs. Rupturing is sometimes caused by stomach acids, and death can rapidly follow. Mules are sometimes given tabets to reduce stomach acid, and often also take medication to inhibit bowel movements. They're later given laxatives and the pellets pass through their digestive systems.

So what can be done? Oldri says, “It is important to provide comprehensive information [on the trend]. These young women only receive limited information [about drug gangs] at school or from their surrounding communities. This is where the media plays a role in providing deeper information.” But Neng Dara Affiah, a commissioner at the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), says the real solution is for women to be given freedom to work; in some areas of Indonesia, tradition dictates that women stay at home. So when, in the case of widows and divorcees, for example, they find themselves the sole breadwinners for their families, they lack the skills to get a legitimate job. 

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
Sober Living
An Audience with Gabor Maté

According to the rock star of addiction theory, every addict had a traumatic childhood whether they realize it or not.

The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 


This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv