2013’s U.S. Global Human Trafficking Report, Japan Once More Fails to “Meet Minimum Standards”

FROM POLARIS PROJECT

In the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, released on June 20th, Japan for the 13th year in a row ranks as a tier 2 country that despite efforts “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” The reason lies in part due to Japanese laws not in the least even meeting the United Nations’ standards for necessary legislation against human trafficking.
Polaris Project Japan (PPJ) also took part in the process of providing information for this report. In particular, the report reflected the experiences of PPJ this last year in dealing with female and child victims who have been psychologically manipulated by captors and the ensuing difficulties present laws have with effectively responding to human trafficking employing such means.
Below we present a summary of the report’s finding on Japan.
(To see the whole report click here.)

Summary of Report’s Findings on Japan
General:
  • Japan, aside from being a destination and midway point country for human trafficking, also exports victims. Many migrant workers from around the world – particularly China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Poland – are enslaved as forced labor in Japan.
  • “Japanese nationals, particularly teenage girls and foreign-born children of Japanese citizens who acquired nationality, were also subjected to sex trafficking. Traffickers strictly control the movement of victims, using debt bondage, threats of violence or deportation, blackmail, and other coercive psychological methods to control victims. Victims of forced prostitution sometimes face debts upon commencement of their contracts, and most are required to pay employers additional fees for living expenses, medical care, and other necessities, leaving them predisposed to debt bondage. “
  • Prostitution of teenage girls via enjyo kousai, or “compensated dating” (a phenomenon now prevalent among teenage girls where an older man pays the girl for sexual favors in an informal boyfriend–esque fashion), remains rampant and especially targets women and girls in vulnerable circumstances. In many cases, through sophisticated psychological techniques, perpetrators cultivate a sense of intimacy with which to begin introducing and forcing said victims into prostitution.
  • Despite efforts Japan still does not meet human trafficking standards. Although prevention efforts have been designated as especially lacking, Japan has not attempted to fix vital legislative failings needed to prosecute human traffickers, as recommended for the last four years by the report.

Recommendation to Japan:
  • Establish comprehensive human trafficking legislation to outlaw all forms of human trafficking in accordance to the United Nations TIP Protocol on human trafficking.
Prosecution:
  • Japanese law utilizes a definition of human trafficking (“the buying and selling of persons”) that by international standards is extremely narrow. As a result authorities are unable to prosecute human trafficking that falls outside of that definition. During the period of the report, there were 44 human trafficking investigations, but not one was charged or prosecuted as human trafficking; out of the 30 people charged under other crimes in those investigations, only 2 were found guilty and 6 others were fined. The authorities made 695 child prostitution investigations and made prosecutions in 579 of those cases. Police confirmed 471 child prostitution victims.

Victim Protection:

  • In 2012 only 27 adult human trafficking victims were confirmed. This is a big drop from 2011’s number of 45 adult victims. Out of those 27, 11 were Japanese and 16 were foreigners. The government has increased aid to women’s issue centers that shelter female domestic abuse victims as well as adding follow-up protection and care. Since 2009, the Japanese government has been announcing plans to assist victims of human trafficking as well as shelters for male victims, but to date none of these have materialized.
  • Many victims remain wary of and hesitant to seek out government assistance due to conceptions that government support is still inadequate despite their being acknowledged by authorities as victims of human trafficking.
  • Although victims do assist investigations, during that time foreign-born victims are not allowed to work. Because without work visa they cannot obtain legal employment to support themselves, they are limited in the assistance they can give to investigations, and many return to their native countries before legal proceedings begin, in effect, hindering prosecution.

Prevention:
  • Japan provides a demand for child prostitution tourism with Japanese males visiting, in particular, Thailand, the Philippines, and Mongolia for their sex trade involving minors. During the U.S. Human Trafficking Report period, there was not one such prosecuted case of child prostitution dealing with this issue. Furthermore, Japan is the only G8 country that has not ratified their membership in the UN’s 2000 Human Trafficking Protocol.

About Human Trafficking
Human trafficking refers to the act of placing people under the control of another with the purpose of exploiting them sexually or via forced labor and has been termed “modern slavery.” The number of people trafficked and living in conditions of slavery has currently risen to 21 million, according to the UN. Believed to be the fastest growing illegal industry, world wide efforts are being taken to prevent and eradicate modern slavery.  In Japan as well, human trafficking is a grave problem. Japan is a destination country for many foreigners who are forced to work in its sex industry, known in the international community as a “human trafficking destination superpower.” Furthermore, many Japanese citizens also become victims of child prostitution, child pornography, and forced prostitution and labor in the sex industry.
About Polaris Project Japan www.PolarisProject.jp
Founded in 2004 in Tokyo, Polaris Project Japan is a non-profit group committed to combating modern day slavery in Japan. We do this                              through advocacy work and by building on the ground relationships with victims of sexual and labor exploitation. We also hold seminars to raise awareness and train civil servants who came in contract with potential victims on how to assist and rescue victims of human trafficking. Through our hotlines we have taken over 3000 cases and provided support to over 145 victims – and counting.

Original Japanese article can be found here: http://www.polarisproject.jp/news/1215-tip2013
Translated by Andre Perez.

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