JAPAN: Tier 2

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 demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Japan remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by passing legislation in November 2016 enhancing oversight of the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) to protect program participants from exploitation; prosecuting and convicting more traffickers compared to the previous year; and identifying 50 trafficking victims, including four labor trafficking victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. There appear to be significant gaps in the laws Japan relies on to prosecute human trafficking cases, which hamper the government’s ability to investigate, prosecute, and convict the full range of trafficking crimes identified in international law. In addition, the treatment of some child sex trafficking victims as delinquents rather than victims left them without proper services and the crimes of their traffickers uninvestigated and unpunished. Despite reports and allegations from NGOs of possible labor trafficking offenses under the TITP, the government did not identify any TITP participants as trafficking victims or prosecute traffickers involved in the use of TITP labor as traffickers.

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 penalties for crimes used to prosecute trafficking crimes to a maximum of no less than four years imprisonment and disallow the alternative of a fine; for sex trafficking crimes, ensure penalties are commensurate with those in place for other serious crimes, such as rape; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute labor trafficking cases; fully implement the oversight and enforcement measures contained in the TITP reform law; increase enforcement of bans on excessive deposits, “punishment” agreements, withholding of passports, and other practices by organizations and employers that contribute to forced labor; enhance victim screening to ensure trafficking victims, including but not limited to migrant workers under the TITP program and children, are properly identified and referred to services, and not detained or forcibly deported for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; increase 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 increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Japan’s criminal code does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons as defined by international law; the government relies on various provisions of laws relating to prostitution, abduction, child welfare, and employment to prosecute trafficking in persons crimes. Article 7 of the Prostitution Prevention Law criminalizes forced prostitution, including by threat or the use of violence and inducing a person into prostitution by deception, embarrassment, or taking advantage of influence through kinship. When deception is used, the punishment is a maximum of three years imprisonment or a fine; when violence or threats are used, the punishment is a maximum of three years imprisonment, or three years imprisonment and a fine, respectively. Other related provisions such as articles 10 and 12 make it a crime to conclude a contract or to own a business in which a person is made to engage in prostitution, and violations of these articles carry respective punishments of a maximum of three years imprisonment or a fine of ¥10,000 ($85), and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a fine up to ¥300,000 ($2,560). An act related to sexual exploitation of children criminalizes the “trafficking of children for the purpose of child prostitution” and prescribes sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment. When prosecuting child sex trafficking cases that do not meet the conditions of this act, the government frequently relies upon the 1947 Child Welfare Act, which broadly criminalizes harming a child—to include causing a child to commit an obscene act, delivering a child to another knowing that the other is likely to cause the child to commit such an act, or keeping a child with the intent of causing a child to commit an act harmful to the child. The Child Welfare Act prescribes sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment, fines, or both for causing a child to commit an obscene act, or up to three years imprisonment, fines, or both for other acts. Article 226-2 of the penal code criminalizes the buying and selling of human beings for profit or indecency, and prescribes a maximum sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment. It also criminalizes buying and selling a person for the purpose of transporting him or her across international borders, and prescribes a penalty that ranges from two years to 20 years imprisonment. The Employment Security Act makes it a crime for a person to engage in labor placement or 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.” It prescribes sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment or a fine not exceeding ¥3 million ($25,630). Article 5 of the Labor Standards Act prohibits forced labor through the use of physical violence, intimidation, confinement, or any other means which unfairly restrict the mental or physical freedom of workers. While the law criminalizes the recruitment of labor by force, it does not clearly criminalize using fraud or coercion to compel a person to labor. The government states that acts such as transporting, transferring, or receiving someone for the purpose of forced labor are implicitly criminalized under article 227 paragraph 3 of the penal code. To the extent that Japan’s laws criminalizing trafficking offenses provide penalties of at least four years imprisonment, they are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes. However, to the extent that they allow for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the punishment for sex trafficking offenses is not commensurate with those for other serious crime, such as rape. Civil society organizations cited the absence of a comprehensive trafficking law as hindering the government’s ability to identify and prosecute trafficking cases.

The government reported investigating 44 cases for crimes related to human trafficking in 2016, the same as in 2015. It initiated prosecution of 43 suspected traffickers in 2016 (26 in 2015) and convicted 37 traffickers (27 in 2015) during the reporting period. Ten of the 37 convicted traffickers received only fines. The government did not prosecute or convict any suspected traffickers involved in the use of TITP labor. However, as a result of labor inspections in TITP work places, it referred 40 cases for prosecution as labor violations that carry lesser penalties. The government reported investigating 809 cases of “children in prostitution,” which is a form of sex trafficking, compared with 728 in 2015. In 2015, the most recent year statistics were available, the government prosecuted 495 people and convicted 409 defendants (including defendants prosecuted before 2015) under article 4 (Child Prostitution) of the “Act on Punishment of Activities Relating to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Protection of Children.” The government continued to conduct numerous anti-trafficking trainings for 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 maintained efforts to protect trafficking victims. The government identified 50 trafficking victims, compared with 54 in 2015. Of these, the government identified 37 female sex trafficking victims (20 in 2015) and four labor trafficking victims (seven in 2015), as well as nine victims of labor trafficking who may also have been exploited in sex trafficking (27 in 2015). National Police Agency (NPA) officials used an IOM-developed handbook and the Inter-Ministerial Liaison Committee’s manuals to identify victims and refer victims to available services. The NPA also distributed a handbill for potential victims with emergency contact information in 10 languages. The government did not adequately screen for and identify victims among vulnerable groups, which continued to hamper protection efforts. Only two victims identified in 2016 were male, and the government has never identified a forced labor victim in TITP, despite substantial evidence of trafficking indicators, including debt bondage, passport confiscation, imposition of exorbitant fines, arbitrary deduction of salaries resulting from non-contractual infractions, attempted forceful deportation by both sending and receiving organizations, and confinement. Despite 577 children identified as involved in commercial sex by police, the government officially identified only 10 children as sex trafficking victims. Some victims were reluctant to approach authorities, fearing reprisals from traffickers or concerns over the government’s ability to aid them. Police treated some potential child sex trafficking victims as delinquents, counseling them on their behavior instead of investigating their cases for possible trafficking crimes. Consequently, the children were not formally identified as trafficking victims, and were not referred to specialized 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 15 of the identified victims (21 in 2015). Other victims received assistance in NGO shelters, where they are eligible for government subsidized medical care, or returned to their homes; however, it was unclear how many received assistance at NGO shelters. The government allocated ¥3.5 million ($29,840) for shelter protection for male victims during 2016 and assisted two male victims during the reporting period. 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 availability and quality of victim services varied by location; prefectures where government officials had more experience with trafficking cases had more know-how for services.

According to a local NGO, foreign trafficking victims were not eligible for the entire range of social services available to Japanese victims. The government-funded legal support center provided pro bono legal services to destitute victims of crime for both criminal and civil cases; it was unclear whether any trafficking victims applied for or received such services. The government continued to fund a program through an international organization to provide counseling, temporary refuge, social reintegration, and repatriation services to foreign victims. Twenty-three victims, including one labor trafficking victim, received services and returned to their home countries through this program during the reporting period. A local NGO reported some police attempted to delay the repatriation of some victims against their will in order to persuade them to testify in cases against their traffickers. Although the law prohibits trafficking victims from being denied entry into Japan or deported, inadequate screening of vulnerable groups meant some unidentified victims were likely arrested and deported for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, including immigration violations. Temporary, long-term, and permanent residence benefits were available to victims who feared returning to their home country. The government did not report granting any long-term residence visas to victims in 2016 but did provide short-term visas to 24 victims. Victims had the right to file civil suits to seek compensation from their traffickers; some foreign workers, including potentially unidentified trafficking victims, and sex trafficking victims filed civil suits for non-payment of wages. However, given that companies ordered to provide restitution often declared bankruptcy, receiving restitution remained nearly impossible.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. It issued its second annual report on government actions to combat trafficking and tracked measures against the stated goals of its anti-trafficking action plan. In November 2016, the government passed the Act on Proper Technical Intern Training and Protection of Technical Intern Trainees (TITP reform law), which seeks to strengthen protections for TITP participants by establishing criminal penalties for violations such as withholding of passports. The TITP reform law established a new oversight organization in January 2017 that will provide a reporting system for workers experiencing abuse and conduct inspections of employment and supervising organizations. To reduce debts incurred by TITP participants through recruiting organizations in source countries, the government plans to pursue bilateral memoranda of cooperation with those countries. Labor and immigration officials conducted joint inspections at 23 organizations associated with employing TITP participants in 2016 and detected violations of labor laws at 21 organizations; correction orders were issued in these cases and four were referred for prosecution. The MOJ banned two companies, 35 supervising organizations, and 202 implementing organizations from receiving TITP interns in 2016. A government council issued a report on the phenomenon of enjo kosai, also known as “compensated dating” or the “JK business” (JK stands for joshi-kosei, or high school girl), and on the issue of coerced participation in pornographic materials, in consultation with local NGOs and experts.

The government continued to advertise the multilingual emergency contact hotline number at local police and immigration offices and with NGOs and governments of source countries. It conducted trafficking awareness campaigns by disseminating information online, through radio programs, posters, and brochures and by disseminating leaflets to NGOs, immigration and labor offices, and diplomatic missions in Japan and overseas. To reduce demand for commercial sex, including child sex tourism, the government continued to distribute posters and brochures, including in transportation hubs, and distribute a handbook to travelers with warnings about the government’s ability to prosecute Japanese citizens who engage in child sex tourism abroad. The government has extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute Japanese nationals who engage in child sexual exploitation abroad; however, it did not report any such prosecutions during the reporting period. 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-7 country that is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; however, the Cabinet submitted draft legislation to the Diet in March 2017 that, if passed, would allow the government to become a party to the protocol.

As reported over the past five years, 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 TITP. Some men, women, and children from Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, 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 vulnerable 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. Enjo kosai, also known as “compensated dating,” and variants of the “JK business” 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. Some model and actor placement agencies use fraudulent recruitment techniques to coerce Japanese women and men into signing vague contracts, and then force them through threats of breach of contract or other legal action to engage in sexual acts to produce pornographic materials. 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 exploited in sex trafficking to pay off the debt incurred for the organizations’ services. Reports continue that Japanese men remain a 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. Many technical interns are Chinese, Cambodian, 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 sending organizations in the interns’ host countries under this program charging participants excessive fees and deposits, and requiring contracts subjecting participants to fines if they fail to comply with their labor contract or other term of agreement. 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.

U.S. Department of State

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