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 from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Nepal, other Asian countries, Uzbekistan, and Poland are subjected to conditions of forced labor, sometimes through the government’s Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program (TTIP). Some women and children from East Asia, Southeast Asia (mainly the Philippines and Thailand), South America, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central America travel to Japan for employment or fraudulent marriage and are subsequently forced into prostitution. Traffickers continued to use fraudulent marriages between foreign women and Japanese men to facilitate the entry of these 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, and other coercive psychological methods. Victims of forced prostitution sometimes face debts upon commencement of their contracts; most are required to pay employers fees for living expenses, medical care, and other necessities, leaving them predisposed to debt bondage. “Fines” for alleged misbehavior are added to victims’ original debt, and the process brothel operators use to calculate these debts is typically not transparent. Trafficking victims transit Japan between East Asia and North America.
Japanese nationals, particularly runaway teenage girls and foreign-born children of Japanese citizens who acquired nationality, are also subjected to sex trafficking. The phenomenon of enjo kosai, also known as “compensated dating,” continues to facilitate the prostitution of Japanese children. In a recent trend called joshi-kosei osanpo, also known as “high school walking,” girls are offered money to accompany men on walks, in cafes, or to hotels, and engage in commercial sex. Sophisticated and organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls in public areas such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online; some of these women and girls become trafficking victims. Japanese men continue to be a significant source of demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia and, to a lesser extent, Mongolia.
The Government of Japan has not, through practices or policy, ended the use of forced labor within the TTIP, a government-run program that was originally designed to foster basic industrial skills and techniques among foreign workers, but has instead become a guest worker program. The majority of technical interns are Chinese and Vietnamese nationals, some of whom pay up to the equivalent of approximately $7,300 for jobs and are employed under contracts that mandate forfeiture of the equivalent of thousands of dollars if workers try to leave. Reports continue of excessive fees, deposits, and “punishment” contracts under this program. Some companies confiscated trainees’ passports and other personal identification documents and controlled the movements of interns to prevent their escape or communication. During the “internship,” migrant workers are placed in jobs that do not teach or develop technical skills—the original intention of the TTIP; some of these workers experience under- or non-payment of wages, have their contracts withheld, and are charged exorbitant rents for cramped, poorly insulated housing that keeps them in debt.
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. The government convicted 31 traffickers, compared to 30 in 2012. The National Police Agency (NPA) continued to host its annual gathering for national and prefectural police officers to share trafficking investigation stories and their anti- trafficking efforts. The Japanese government, however, did not develop or enact legislation that would fill key gaps in the law and thereby facilitate prosecutions of trafficking crimes. It failed to 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 TTIP continued to lack effective oversight or means to protect participants from abuse; despite some reforms, NGOs and media reported recruitment practices and working conditions did not improve for interns. The government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP. The number of identified victims, especially foreign trafficking victims, decreased with no evidence of a diminution in the overall scale of the problem, and the government identified no male victims of either forced labor or forced prostitution.
Recommendations for Japan:
Draft and enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law prohibiting all forms of trafficking consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute forced labor cases and punish convicted traffickers with jail time; increase enforcement of bans on excessive deposits, “punishment” agreements, withholding of passports, and other practices that contribute to forced labor in the TTIP; establish a third, neutral, non-government entity to conduct a management audit of the TTIP; establish an oversight mechanism to promote accountability in the TTIP to hold perpetrators of forced labor responsible for their crimes; expand and implement formal victim identification procedures for front-line officers to recognize both male and female victims of forced labor or forced prostitution; enhance screening of victims to ensure potential victims of trafficking are not detained or forcibly deported for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; train front-line police officers to not arrest children in prostitution, but to treat them as victims of trafficking; provide specialized care and assistance to victims of trafficking; establish assistance and protection services that respect foreign victims’ cultural practices, such as religious observance and diet; provide permanent residency as an incentive for victims to participate in trafficking trials; increase the number of labor inspectors that are inspecting TTIP sending and receiving organizations, and establish a new mandate for labor inspectors to report on labor trafficking violations; establish mechanisms for foreign migrant workers to seek redress when abused in the TTIP, and disseminate this information to TTIP workers; aggressively investigate, prosecute, and punish Japanese nationals who engage in child sex tourism; and accede to the 2000 UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention and the TIP Protocol.
The Government of Japan maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Japan’s criminal code does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons as required by international law. A variety of laws, including Article 7 and 12 of the Prostitution Prevention Law, Article 5 of the Labor Standards Act, and Article 63 of the Employment Security Law, cover some elements of human trafficking. Articles 226 and 227 of the penal code prohibit kidnapping, transporting, and the “buying and selling of persons.” Japanese laws do not cover all forms of child sex trafficking (particularly the recruitment, transport, transfer, or receipt of a child for the purpose of prostitution), labor trafficking (with regard to transport, transfer, or receipt of a person for forced labor), or sex trafficking (particularly the recruitment, transfer, transport, or receipt of individuals for the purpose of forced prostitution). As a result, prosecutors must bring charges under statutes that do not capture all the elements of the trafficking crime or equate the crime with a lesser offense, which carries lesser penalties. Some of these laws, such as Articles 226 and 227 of the penal code, which prohibit “buying and selling” of persons, and the laws pertaining to kidnapping, prescribe punishments ranging from one to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and generally commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Other laws, namely Article 7 of the Prostitution Prevention Law, assign a penalty of three years’ imprisonment, which is not sufficiently stringent.
In 2013, the government reported one prosecution and conviction under the trafficking provisions of its criminal code; otherwise it utilized other non-trafficking provisions to prosecute possible trafficking crimes. The government reported 28 investigations for offenses related to human trafficking in 2013, a decrease from 44 in 2012. These investigations resulted in convictions of 31 traffickers, compared to 30 convictions in 2012. Of the 31 convicted defendants, only five served prison sentences; 26 defendants received fines or suspended sentences. One forced labor investigation involved Chinese interns in the TTIP in Kawakami Village, Nagano Prefecture. Despite numerous reports and allegations of possible labor trafficking offenses under the TTIP in Kawakami Village, including confiscation of passports, imposition of exorbitant fines, and arbitrary deduction of salaries resulting from non-contractual infractions, the government did not prosecute or convict trafficking offenders involved in the use of TTIP labor or bar the involved organizations from participating in the program. The government claimed to lack jurisdiction over the activities of sending organizations in source countries and did not take any action for deceptive recruitment practices. An investigation involving three individuals suspected of violating the Immigration Control Act in connection with allegations of forced labor in the TTIP, discussed in the 2013 TIP Report, did not result in a trafficking prosecution. The government reported investigating 3,913 individuals for child prostitution, compared to 695 in 2012; 709 resulted in prosecutions, compared to 579 in 2012. 297 offenders were convicted for child prostitution in 2013, sentencing information for these offenders was not available.
The NPA, Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Immigration, and Public Prosecutor’s office continued to conduct an annual anti-trafficking training for senior investigators and police officers from 47 prefectural and municipal police departments, prosecutors, judges, and immigration bureau officers on identifying trafficking victims and investigating trafficking cases. The Japan Coast Guard gave a series of lectures to 61 officers to raise awareness of trafficking issues. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The Government of Japan decreased protection efforts, hampered by a narrow definition of human trafficking. The government has never identified a forced labor victim in the TTIP, despite substantial evidence of trafficking indicators, including debt bondage, passport confiscation, and confinement. A steep decline in victim identification continued in 2013. NPA officials identified 21 female sex trafficking victims in 2013, a decrease from 27 in 2012 and 45 in 2011; only eight of the victims were foreign nationals. Two of the 13 Japanese nationals identified were children. The police reported identifying 462 victims of child prostitution, compared to 471 in 2012. The government reported providing psychological counseling and medical care to victims of child prostitution. NPA officials used an IOM-developed handbook to identify victims of trafficking and the Inter-Ministerial Liaison Committee’s manual to refer victims to available services.
The government continued to lack trafficking victim-specific services, but funded Japan’s Women’s Consulting Center shelters (WCCs) and domestic violence shelters, which assisted 13 Japanese trafficking victims. Victims in WCC shelters were provided food, basic needs, psychological care, and coverage of medical expenses. It is unclear whether any foreign trafficking victims received such services prior to repatriation. Victims were able to leave the facilities when accompanied by facility personnel. Although the 2009 Japanese action plan calls for male victim protection policies, Japan did not have dedicated shelters or clearly defined resources for male victims. No assistance to victims of forced labor or abused “interns” in the TTIP was reported, as the government did not screen for or identify victims among these vulnerable populations. At least 13 prostituted children in joshi-kosei osanpo were taken into protective custody.
Some victims were reluctant to seek government assistance due to the perception of a lack of protective services available to identified trafficking victims. The government-funded Legal Support Center provided pro bono legal services to destitute victims of crime for both criminal and civil cases; for the second consecutive year, it was unclear whether any trafficking victims applied for or received such services. Foreign victims could not work during the investigation or trial period unless they obtained a different visa status, a disincentive to participation; the government reported providing three victims with a special activities status to work, but most chose to be repatriated before the trials of their alleged traffickers began. Although permanent residency benefits were legally available to trafficking victims who feared returning to their home country, no trafficking victims received such benefits for at least the thirteenth consecutive year; one victim continued to receive a one-year visa for the fourth consecutive year. Victims had the right to seek compensation from their traffickers, but no victim has ever sought restitution to date.
The Government of Japan maintained modest efforts to prevent trafficking. It began negotiating memoranda of understanding on trafficking prevention with several Southeast Asian countries. Japanese consular officials were educated to identify potential victims during the visa application process; this screening has not yet resulted in identifying trafficking victims. The Inter-Ministerial Liaison Committee on Trafficking increased consultations with NGOs that work on trafficking issues from one per year to six, but no policy changes have occurred as a result of these consultations. The NPA and the Immigration Bureau continued to distribute leaflets on multilingual emergency contact mechanisms with a hotline number to local immigration offices and governments of source countries, conducted an online trafficking awareness campaign, and publicized trafficking arrests to raise awareness.
The government reported increasing outreach to TTIP employers and immigration and labor inspections at TTIP companies and requiring that copies of all contracts be provided to MOJ to allow for closer scrutiny to ensure they did not include deposits or “punishment” clauses. Observers reported these efforts instead led to the emergence of an additional layer of brokers to circumvent the system. The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW), which oversees the country’s labor inspectors, did not have the mandate to report on trafficking abuses, and was not able to inspect all the TTIP organizations in a timely manner. The Japan International Trade Cooperation Organization (JITCO), a government entity designated to monitor the TTIP, lacked enforcement powers and TTIP organizations were allowed to self-audit. On May 2013, JITCO published the fourth edition of its handbook for TTIP workers, which contains contact information for reporting complaints.
In an effort to reduce demand for commercial sex, the Cabinet Office continued to distribute posters, leaflets, and passport inserts nationwide that contained warning messages to potential consumers of sexual services. Japan serves as 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 did not investigate or prosecute anyone for child sex tourism. The NPA hosted a conference on commercial sexual exploitation of children in Southeast Asia in November 2013, during which officials shared case details with Thai, Cambodian, Philippine, and Indonesian police counterparts. Japan is the only G-8 country that is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.