According to the “Trafficking in Persons Report 2012,” Japan was rated a Tier 2 country. This means, “The Government of Japan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.” After 8 years of a Tier 2 rating, its “significant efforts” seem to be falling short.
One of the issues reported yet again was Japanese male tourists who continue to provide demand for child prostitution in other countries.
Among the G-8 countries, Japan and Russia share the dubious distinction of a Tier 2 rating. In Asia, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan are Tier 1, or top-rated nations for fully complying with the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking or sex/labor slavery. If you are someone who has never heard of this world-wide scourge, here are some stories from victims all over the world.
Japan also is still not a party to the Trafficking Protocol (UN TIP Protocol) adopted by the United Nations in 2000. It is the only G-8 country not to be so (152 have become parties, including China in 2010.) This protocol defines human trafficking and the measures that need to be taken against it. It states that “The consent of a victim of trafficking…shall be irrelevant.” People who are recruited, though not forced, and later exploited and abused are included as trafficking victims.
Still, in 2012 Japan will not make it clear that this kind of abuse should be illegal. Instead Japan narrowly defines trafficking as the buying and selling of persons, and it hasn’t become a party to the Protocol.1
In my last article, I quoted the Polaris Project as saying, “Japan is recognized as having one of the most severe human trafficking problems among the major industrialized democracies.” However, the meaning of this was completely missed by an intelligent Japanese friend of mine. She says this is an issue that is not well understood in Japan.
In fact, a Japanese colleague did a search for me and found that the 2012 Trafficking in Persons report, which came out in June, was hardly mentioned in the Japanese press. Could it be an oversight?
The Trafficking in Persons Report began in 2005. I remember at that time reading about this growing world-wide problem and the fact that Japan wasn’t doing much to address it. I was surprised to find out recently that it has made only modest improvement since, and that at the urging of the international community.
Realize that even Tier 1 countries have problems with modern-day sex/labor slavery. No country is perfectly clean. In fact, Japan is not only a destination for sex slaves but also a transit country for persons trafficked from East Asia to North America.
A speaker at the event held for the release of the 2012 report encapsulated the voice of a trafficker: “Come with me, I’ll help you start a modeling career. Pay me $10,000, I’ll get you that job. I love you. I’ll take care of you.”
Polaris Project states, “Once the women and children are brought into Japan, a process of ‘seasoning’ or breaking them down occurs, usually consisting of gang rapes, beatings, forced drug administration, and informing the victims of debts they now owe the traffickers and how they must pay them.”
Humantrafficking.org states that “Japan continues to be an international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography. Japan is home to an immense sex industry that includes a wide variety of commercial sex operations…” The 2012 report states that “The [Japanese] government reported 842 investigations related to child prostitution and reported 470 convictions…”
As Polaris states, “The domestic trafficking industry targeting Japanese girls and women is also highly organized and lucrative for the criminal networks.” Of course, the yakuza and foreign organized crime organizations are behind a lot of this.
But I was surprised that while in 2011 the report claimed that the yakuza was a significant factor, the 2012 report said the yakuza was responsible for “some trafficking in Japan…” This may be a result of Japan’s recent crack-down on the yakuza, which should be applauded. However, even if much of the sex slavery problem is gang-related, realize that all countries have to deal with organized crime, and it’s not an excuse.
Japan has begun educating its police force, identifying victims and making progress in prosecutions and convictions of forced prostitution of women and children. I think, however, until it takes the advice of the 2012 report and creates a comprehensive anti-trafficking law based on the definitions of the UN TIP Protocol, it will remain a Tier 2 country. I hope Japan will be able to expand its view of victims and its concept of what constitutes just punishment to reflect that of the international community.
Men and women who are duped into bad situations because they are desperate, poor or just too trusting don’t deserve to be enslaved and abused. I’m sure the majority of Japanese would agree if informed clearly about this issue by the Japanese media. Maybe they could push their politicians to bring Japan up to Tier 1 status in this area, too.
Note: The 2012 report also highlights forced labor involving the Trainee and Technical Internship Program run by the Japanese government. Evidently, it’s been rife with abuse, including the death from overwork of a trainee from China recently. It states, “The government has not identified a forced labor victim in Japan in 18 years, despite substantial evidence of abuses against workers in the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program.”
1. To become a party means “Ratification, Acceptance, Approval, Accession, Succession.”