JAPAN: Tier 2
Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and for children subjected to sex trafficking. Male and female migrant workers, mainly from Asia, are subjected to conditions of forced labor, including some cases through the government’s Technical Intern Training Program (TITP). Some men, women, and children from East Asia, Southeast Asia (mainly the Philippines and Thailand), South Asia, South America, and Africa travel to Japan for employment or fraudulent marriage and are subjected to sex trafficking. Traffickers use fraudulent marriages between foreign women and Japanese men to facilitate the entry of women into Japan for forced prostitution in bars, clubs, brothels, and massage parlors. Traffickers strictly control the movement of victims using debt bondage, threats of violence or deportation, blackmail, passport retention, and other coercive psychological methods; victims of forced prostitution sometimes also face debts upon commencement of their contracts. Most victims are required to pay employers fees for living expenses, medical care, and other necessities, leaving them predisposed to debt bondage. Brothel operators may add “fines” for alleged misbehavior to victims’ original debt, and the process used to calculate these debts is typically not transparent. Trafficking victims may transit Japan before enduring exploitation in onward destinations, including East Asia and North America.
Japanese citizens, particularly runaway teenage girls, children of foreign and Japanese citizens who have acquired citizenship, and their foreign mothers, are also subjected to sex trafficking. The phenomenon of enjo kosai, also known as “compensated dating,” and variants of the “JK business” (JK stands for joshi-kosei, or high school girl) continue to facilitate the sex trafficking of Japanese children. Sophisticated and organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls—often in poverty or with mental disabilities—in public areas such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online; some of these women and girls become trafficking victims. Organizations in Japan contact children of Japanese fathers and Filipino mothers to assist them and their mothers to acquire citizenship and move to Japan for a fee; once in Japan, some mothers and children are then exploited in sex trafficking to pay off the debt incurred for the organizations’ services. Japanese men continue to be a significant source of demand for child sex tourism in Asia.
Cases of forced labor occur within TITP, a government-run program originally designed to foster basic technical skills among foreign workers that has effectively become a guest-worker program. During the “internship,” many migrant workers are placed in jobs that do not teach or develop technical skills—the original intention of TITP; some of these workers continued to experience conditions of forced labor. The majority of technical interns are Chinese and Vietnamese citizens, some of whom pay up to $10,000 for jobs and are employed under contracts that mandate forfeiture of the equivalent of thousands of dollars if they leave. Reports continue of excessive fees, deposits, and “punishment” contracts by sending organizations under this program. Some employers confiscate trainees’ passports and other personal identity documents and control the movements of interns to prevent their escape or communication with persons outside the program.
The Government of Japan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government increased prosecutions and convictions of traffickers and the number of trafficking victims identified during the reporting period, although nine of the 27 traffickers convicted in 2015 received only fines as punishment. The government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in TITP, and the overall number of prosecutions and convictions decreased since 2013. The government released its first annual report on anti-trafficking measures. The government, however, did not develop or enact legislation that would fill key gaps in the law to facilitate prosecutions of trafficking crimes and bring it into accordance with the definition of trafficking in international law. The government modestly increased efforts to protect trafficking victims. The government, however, did not develop specific protection and assistance measures for trafficking victims, such as establishing a nationwide network of shelters exclusively for trafficking victims apart from the existing network of shelters for victims of domestic violence. The government did not accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR JAPAN:
Update the legal framework to fully criminalize all forms of trafficking in accordance with the definition in international law, including to criminalize those who recruit, transport, transfer, or receive individuals for forced labor or sex trafficking; increase the penalty for trafficking offenses by eliminating the alternative of a fine to a prison sentence; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute labor trafficking cases, and punish convicted traffickers with jail time; enact the TITP reform bill; increase enforcement of bans on excessive deposits, “punishment” agreements, withholding of passports, and other practices by organizations and employers that contribute to forced labor; implement the newly expanded victim identification procedures for front-line officers to recognize both male and female victims of forced labor or sex trafficking; enhance victim screening to ensure potential trafficking victims, including but not limited to arrested migrant workers under the TITP program, are not detained or forcibly deported for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; set aside resources to provide specialized care and assistance to trafficking victims, including designated shelters for trafficking victims; aggressively investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish Japanese citizens who engage in child sex tourism overseas; and accede to the 2000 UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention and the 2000 TIP Protocol.
The government modestly increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Japan’s criminal code does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, as defined by international law, and the government relies on various provisions of laws relating to prostitution, abduction, child welfare, and employment to prosecute trafficking in persons crimes. Articles 7 through 12 of the 1956 Prostitution Prevention Law criminalize the procurement of prostitutes and forced prostitution. Article 226-2 of the penal code criminalizes the buying or selling of human beings. The 1947 Employment Security Act makes it a crime for a person to engage in labor recruitment “by means of violence, intimidation, confinement or other unjust restraint on mental or physical freedom” or to recruit laborers for “work harmful to public health or morals.” In addition, Japan’s 1947 Child Welfare Act broadly criminalizes harming a child—to include causing a child to commit an obscene act or an act harmful to the child—which has reportedly been the basis for prosecuting a defendant for subjecting a child to prostitution. However, the Child Welfare Act does not appear to cover all forms of child sex trafficking, as it does not reach the recruitment, transport, transfer, or receipt of a child for the purpose of prostitution. Article 226-2 provides a 10-year maximum penalty for buying a person for the purpose of profit or indecency, which is sufficiently stringent and generally commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, buying and selling a person for the purpose of transporting him or her across international borders is a lesser crime subject to a two-year minimum penalty. Other crimes relied on by Japanese prosecutors to prosecute trafficking offenses also carry insufficiently stringent penalties because they provide for a fine as an alternative to incarceration. An offender who prostitutes a child and is convicted of endangering a child’s welfare by “causing the child to commit an act making an impact that is mentally or physically harmful to the child” could be punished only with the payment of a fine, as the penalty is a maximum of three years imprisonment, a fine of the equivalent of one million yen ($8,000), or both. Likewise, though causing a child to “commit an obscene act” carries a higher maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of no more than 3 million yen ($24,000), or both, even under this article there remains the possibility of a fine as the sole punishment. Similarly, to the extent the Employment Security Act criminalizes the act of recruitment for forced labor, the allowed maximum punishment of a minimum fine of 200,000 yen ($1,700) is insufficiently stringent. In addition, some forms of forced prostitution are punishable by a maximum of three years’ imprisonment or a fine. Others are subject to five years’ imprisonment without the alternative of a fine.
The government reported investigating 44 cases for crimes related to human trafficking in 2015, compared with 32 in 2014. It initiated prosecution of 17 cases in 2015, most of which had direct or indirect links to sex trafficking and involved a total of 26 suspected traffickers. The government convicted 27 traffickers, six of whose prosecutions began in 2014, compared with 18 convicted in 2014. Nine of the 27 convicted traffickers received only fines. Despite numerous reports and allegations of possible labor trafficking offenses under the TITP, including confiscation of passports, imposition of exorbitant fines, arbitrary deduction of salaries resulting from non-contractual infractions, and attempted forceful deportation by both sending and receiving organizations, the government did not prosecute or convict traffickers involved in the use of TITP labor as traffickers. However, the government has prosecuted some of these abuses as labor violations with insufficiently stringent penalties. The government reported investigating 728 cases of child prostitution, compared with 661 in 2014. It was unclear how many investigations resulted in prosecutions and convictions and how many of the cases involved children engaged in transactional sex as compared to children subject to prostitution by a third party. The National Police Agency (NPA), Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Bureau of Immigration, and public prosecutor’s office continued to conduct numerous anti-trafficking trainings for senior investigators and police officers, prosecutors, judges, and immigration bureau officers on identifying victims and investigating trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government modestly increased efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified 54 trafficking victims, compared with 25 in 2014. Of the 54, the government identified 23 Filipino labor trafficking victims in one case, which may have also involved sex trafficking for some victims. The government identified 11 other labor trafficking victims in separate cases in 2015. This was the first year the government identified labor trafficking victims in 20 years; some of these cases may also have been related to sex trafficking. The government’s protection efforts continued to be hampered by a narrow definition of human trafficking. The government has never identified a forced labor victim in TITP, despite substantial evidence of trafficking indicators, including debt bondage, passport confiscation, and confinement. NPA officials identified 20 female sex trafficking victims in 2015, compared with 25 in 2014. Five of the 13 Japanese sex trafficking victims identified were children. Despite 518 children identified as involved in prostitution by police, the government officially identified only five children as sex trafficking victims. Police informally counseled some child sex trafficking victims on their behavior instead of formally identifying them as trafficking victims and consequently did not receive specialized trafficking victim services. The government continued to lack trafficking-specific victim services but funded Japan’s Women’s Consulting Center (WCC) shelters and domestic violence shelters, which assisted 21 of the identified victims. Other victims received assistance in NGO shelters or returned to their homes. WCC shelters provided food, basic needs, psychological care, and coverage of medical expenses, and allowed the victims to leave the facilities when accompanied by facility personnel. The government began to provide financial support for shelter protection for male victims through an NGO in October 2015.
NPA officials used an IOM-developed handbook and the Inter-Ministerial Liaison Committee’s manuals to identify victims and refer victims to available services. Some victims were reluctant to seek government assistance due to fear of reprisals from traffickers. No government assistance to victims of labor trafficking or abused participants in the TITP was reported, as the government did not screen for or identify victims among this vulnerable population. The government-funded Legal Support Center provided pro bono legal services to destitute victims of crime for both criminal and civil cases; for the fourth consecutive year, it was unclear whether any trafficking victims applied for or received such services. Although the law prohibits trafficking victims from being punished for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, some victims were fined for immigration violations incurred. Temporary, long-term, and permanent residence benefits were available to victims who feared returning to their home country; the government granted eight long-term residence visas. In most cases, however, foreign victims chose to return to their home country rather than stay through the lengthy investigation and trial period, during which they were often not allowed to work. The government funded a program through an international organization to provide counseling, temporary refuge, social reintegration, and repatriation services to foreign victims. Twelve victims received services and returned to their home countries through this program during the reporting period. Victims had the right to seek compensation from their traffickers; and some foreign workers, including potentially unidentified trafficking victims, did file civil suits for non-payment of wages. However, given that companies ordered to provide restitution often declared bankruptcy, receiving restitution remained difficult.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. It issued its first annual report on government actions to combat trafficking and tracked measures against the stated goals of its anti-trafficking action plan. The plan outlined efforts to reform the TITP, train front-line officers, and improve protection and assistance for trafficking victims. A draft TITP reform bill submitted to the Diet in March 2015 has yet to be voted upon. The reform bill would establish an entity to conduct management audits, an oversight mechanism to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes of forced labor, redress mechanisms for foreign migrants, and would designate responsible ministries, but it would not allow interns to change employers. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism initiated a program to accept foreign construction workers that has strong protection components, such as onsite assessments and reviews, as an attempted progression from TITP. The MOJ banned three companies, 32 supervising organizations, and 238 implementing organizations from receiving TITP interns in 2015. The Japan International Trade Cooperation Organization, a government entity designated to monitor the TITP, conducted employer visits and trainings, operated a hotline for TITP interns, and distributed the TITP workers’ handbooks in six languages.
The government continued to advertise the multilingual emergency contact hotline number at local immigration offices and with governments of source countries, conduct online trafficking awareness campaigns, and publicize trafficking arrests to raise awareness. To reduce demand for commercial sex, the cabinet office continued to distribute posters, leaflets, and passport inserts nationwide with warning messages to potential consumers of sexual services. Japan is a source of demand for child sex tourism, with Japanese men traveling and engaging in commercial sexual exploitation of children in other Asian countries—particularly Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and, to a lesser extent, Mongolia; the government prosecuted one Japanese national for child sexual exploitation in another Asian country and sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment with a four-year suspended sentence. The NPA shared case details on commercial sexual exploitation of children in Southeast Asia with Thai, Cambodian, Philippine, and Indonesian police counterparts. The government provided anti-trafficking training for troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions and to its diplomatic personnel. Japan is the only G-8 country that is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.