Authorities at Bali’s famous Kuta Beach have rounded up and detained 28 “beach boys” accused of selling sex to female tourists after a documentary on the island’s “gigolos” was posted on the internet.
“We’ve rounded up 28 men we suspect might be gigolos. They’re young, fit-looking and bronzed, mostly surfer beach boys,” I Gusti Ngurah Tresna, the chief of security at Kuta Beach, said.
“We’re questioning them. If we have good reason to suspect they may be involved in shady activities we’ll hand them over to the police,” he said, adding that raids were ongoing.
“We’re always on the beach so we can guess which beach boy may be taking advantage of foreign women.”
The arrests followed the release of a documentary, Cowboys in Paradise, by Singapore-based writer and director Amit Virmani at a film festival in South Korea last Wednesday.
Segments of the film, which contains candid interviews with “beach boys” and the foreign women who fall for them, have gone viral on the internet after becoming available on YouTube.
Tresna said the documentary ran counter to the authorities’ preferred image of Bali as a world-class destination.
“All this while we’ve been selling our beautiful waves, sunsets, turtles, culture and nature conservation, and suddenly now we’re seen to be selling gigolos? Such films are really harmful to our image,” he said.
The official could not explain what charges the “beach boys” could face and admitted it would be hard to prove they were selling sex.
“We apprehended some suspects some time back but we let them off with a stern warning,” he said.
“They will approach foreign female tourists, especially Japanese, on the beach, befriend them and the women will pay for their company and food during their stay here. Sex may be involved.
“It’s like prostitution, which is hard to prove because the foreign women may be willing partners, too.”
The producers of the film condemned the clampdown on Kuta Beach.
“We are aghast at the recent raids in Kuta. This is not the point of the film,” a statement posted on the film’s website said.
A surfing instructor at Kuta Beach told The Bali Times on Tuesday that the presence of young men seeking foreign women on the beach was nothing new, and not unique to Bali.
“Police take the media too seriously. This has been going on for many years and in many parts of the world. But now, because someone decided to do a documentary, police are asking locals for their ID and asking questions, like what are you doing here,” said the local, who declined to give his name.