Panel advocates law to protect trafficking victims


Japan should enact a law to protect and support victims of human trafficking, most of whom are young females forced into the sex trade after they arrive in the country, participants said during a Tuesday evening symposium in Tokyo.

Sumiko Shimizu, a former House of Councilors member who has long worked on the issue, said that revising the Penal Code to increase the punishment for people convicted of trafficking someone into Japan is not enough to combat the problem.

“Most of the victims of human trafficking have been handled as criminals who illegally stayed or worked in Japan. Afterward, they have been deported to their home countries,” she said. “It’s unfair treatment” for the victims, who were forced into their plight.

The law should be able to protect victims’ rights and allow them to obtain assistance, including shelter and care to recover from physical and psychological damage, she said.

The government is planning to revise the Penal Code to create a new criminal charge targeting human trafficking next year. It will also tighten its visa screening of foreign women entering Japan as dancers and singers as part of an effort to crack down on the problem.

The human trafficking situation in Japan is getting worse, according to Filipino and Thai experts who took part in the symposium, which was organized by the government-backed Asian Women’s Fund. For example, most Thai women who have been trafficked to Japan are minors, and the amount of debt an average victim has forced upon her by her broker upon arrival in Japan has increased to between 5 million yen and 6 million yen, from 3 million yen to 4 million yen in the past, according to two Thai experts who work on behalf of trafficking victims.

Women are often forced to engage in prostitution to repay these debts.

The number of Philippine women who entered Japan on “entertainer” visas doubled to 69,986 in 2002 from 34,237 in 1998, according to the Development Action for Women Network, a nongovernmental group in the Philippines.

They are usually forced to work as hostesses at nightclubs and often forced to engage in prostitution.

Philippines notified

MANILA (Kyodo) A Japanese fact-finding team on human trafficking has told Philippine government officials about Japan’s plan to crack down on the crime, many of whose victims come from the Philippines, team members said.

The team of government officials, including those from the Foreign Ministry and National Police Agency, explained to Manila that Japan will submit a bill to the Diet next spring to revise the Penal Code in a bid to crack down on human trafficking, they said in a news conference.

In a meeting with Philippine officials, the delegation said Japan has strengthened measures to protect foreign women seeking help.