The practice of seeking pesugihan (a Javanese term for fortune or wealth, usually achieved by visiting a sacred burial ground of a historic prominent figure or mythical beings) through free-sex rituals is one of the factors that has increased the prevalence of HIV and AIDS, especially in the Tulungagung region of East Java, Indonesia. Often under the guise of tradition, this practice is maintained without proper supervision from governing agencies. To assess this problem, this study focuses on mapping the origin and distribution of free-sex myths in the pesugihan ritual, especially at the burial site of Nyi Roro Kembang Sore, Tulungagung. Data from 2019 to 2021 were collected from interviews with the burial site caretaker as well as the pilgrims or visitors to the site. Through the methods of multiple or mixed discourse analysis and intertextual readings, the study finds that the burial site of Nyi Roro Kembang Sore witnessed a shift from a spiritually oriented pilgrimage to a myth-reinforced sex ritual. Why people visit the site might be driven by various motives, although there is a frequent denial that free sex plays a part in the motivation. Such denial seems to be dangerous, especially for women, as sexually transmitted diseases that women are vulnerable to are not recognized by the local government or society. This shows that women's health is still at the periphery of society, never at the center, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this challenging time, when the COVID-19 disease is prioritized, women’s sexual health seems to be forgotten. Women are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases but their health is never perceived as a serious problem. This finding indicates that women's health is at stake as it seems to be put aside and considered unimportant.
Arimbi, Diah Ariani; Putra, Gesang Manggala Nugraha; and Hapsari, Nurul Fitri
"Sacred Sex or Purely Prostitution? Women’s Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Roro Kembang Sore Tomb, Tulungagung, East Java, Indonesia,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 24:
8, Article 9.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol24/iss8/9