Human Trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in the world, after arms and drug dealing. It is also the fastest growing with millions of victims worldwide and extensive profits. Sex trafficking is the most lucrative sector of the trade in people with victims being deceived or coerced into exploitative situations.
Fueled by its massive sex industry, Japan is one of the largest destination countries for international trafficking. Tens of thousands of women and children have been brought to Japan to work in the sex industry. They are often entrapped in vulnerable situations as many enter Japan with fake passports or overstay their visa in order to pay the “debt” or the agent fee.
Not only are foreign women and children sexually exploited, but internal trafficking of Japanese nationals is also a severe problem. A record high 1700 cases of child prostitution and child pornography were reported in Japan in 2003. Also in need of rescue and protection are adult victims that, controlled by threats or enormous debts, are forced to work in adult entertainment establishments.
Learn About: Domestic Trafficking in Japan
Learn About: Cross-border Human Trafficking
Learn About: Japan's Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (MOFA, 2009)
Learn About: Japan's Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (MOFA, 2004)
Learn About: Japan's Efforts to Combat Child Pornography (summary by Polaris Project)
UNDERSTANDING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
MYTH #1: Human trafficking is the forced transportation of people across borders.
Reality: Human trafficking is modern-day slavery through labor or commercial sexual exploitation, and does not require transportation to occur. Forced transportation in the absence of slavery-like labor or commercial sexual exploitation is usually considered the crime of kidnapping. Trafficking involves force or deception on the part of the trafficker.
MYTH #2: Trafficking victims are only foreigners.
Reality: Many trafficked persons are victims of internal or domestic trafficking - trafficking within the borders of a single country. There are many instances of Japanese women and children being sold and forced into sexual servitude. According to the UN's 'Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime', involving children under the age of 18 in sexual acts is considered human trafficking. This includes child prostitution and child pornography, which have become rampant in Japan through the use of the Internet. Incidences of such crimes have been increasing year after year in Japan.
MYTH #3: Foreign prostitutes are criminals
Reality: Many of us who live in Japan tend to view foreign women in the sex industry negatively as 'illegal workers' or 'illegal overstayers', thus labeling them as criminals. The national media also exacerbates this prejudice by portraying foreigners as the cause for Japan's increasing crime rate by reporting news about crimes committed by foreigners with exaggerated fervor. Not all foreigners who work in the sex industry are victims of human trafficking. However, many of them are. Victims are forced into prostitution, incur enormous 'debts' and no salary, are abused emotionally and physically, have limited freedom and meanwhile are unable to escape as their personal identification and documents have been confiscated.
MYTH #4: Poverty and inequality are the causes of human trafficking.
Reality: While poverty and inequality are important factors in making certain populations more vulnerable to being trafficked, they are not the primary cause of trafficking. Trafficking is a criminal industry driven by 1) the ability to make large profits due to high demand, and 2) negligible-to-low risk of prosecution. As long as demand is unchecked and the risks for traffickers are low, trafficking will exist regardless of other contributing factors.
Blaming poverty and inequality is not only inaccurate and disheartening, it tends to deflect blame from the key actors that perpetuate trafficking - the traffickers themselves and their customers. Polaris Project believes that the most effective measures would include strengthening the penalties and legal reform in the countries in demand.
MYTH #5: There's not much I can do about such a huge issue.
Reality: Together - we can make a huge difference! We were founded by regular community members like yourself. Organizations like Polaris Project live and breathe based on the contributions and dedication of community members. Making a financial donation, a gift of time, goods, or services, or helping to raise awareness are the things that collectively help victims everyday.
<Domestic Trafficking in Japan>
It may commonly believed that human trafficking is from the past history, occuring mostly in foreign countries. However, there have been clear indicators, even in media, that there are many Japanese women and young girls who have become the victims of human trafficking. Rather than calling these cases as "human trafficking", media describes them as "sexual exploitation of children" or "forced prostitution".
Legal protection exists for children and women against pimping and forced prostitution, but violent cases against them fail to show decline. There are over 1500 victims of child prostitution and child pornography each year. International law considers child prostitution as a major aspect of human trafficking. Severe cases include threatening children to work in brothels, or forcing prostitution (usually called "Enjo-Kousai") by their acquaintances.
<Cross-border Human Trafficking>
Wealthy countries, such as the US and Japan, are considered to be destination countries. In the case of Japan, many women and children are trafficked into the country from Asia and South America for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Debts from transportaion and intermediary costs are cast upon them when they arrive to Japan, forcing them into prostitution industry. There are still many who are remain trapped under this system.
Human trafficking for labor exploitation is another important aspect for Japan. To acquire cheap labor cost, foreigners are forced to work under harsh conditions. Triggered by the economic gap between developed and developing countries, labor force supply by those who wish to work as migrant workers, employers demand for cheap labor cost, and heinous brokers who exploit the conditions of both sides are interconnected behind the scene of labor trafficking.