The United States has censured Japan for failing to halt the trafficking of women and children for sex, and for ongoing “conditions of forced labor” within a government-run training program for non-Japanese.
In its annual review of human trafficking worldwide, the U.S. State Department on Monday called Japan a “destination, source and transit country” for people subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation, urging the government to enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law and offer specialized care for victims.
The 2015 Trafficking in Persons report has some positive reading. It credits the government for “making significant efforts” to meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, noting that in 2014 it conducted a comprehensive review of the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) and submitted a bill to punish perpetrators of forced labor.
But it says the government has failed to develop legislation to fill “key gaps” in the law and thereby facilitate the prosecution of traffickers.
It adds: “The government has never identified a forced labor victim in the TITP, despite substantial evidence of trafficking indicators, including debt bondage, passport confiscation and confinement.”
Regarding sex trafficking, the report gives examples of how women and children are coerced into prostitution, including traffickers using “fraudulent marriages . . . to facilitate the entry of women into Japan for forced prostitution in bars, clubs, brothels and massage parlors.”
It says most victims of forced prostitution are “required to pay employers fees for living expenses, medical care and other necessities, leaving them predisposed to debt bondage.”
It adds that brothel operators also impose fines for alleged misbehavior, which add to the victims’ “typically not transparent” debt.
The report says trafficking victims also transit Japan between East Asia and North America, and that Japanese men remain a “significant” source of demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia and Mongolia.
There is criticism of ongoing failure to help Japanese runaway girls who are subjected to sex trafficking.
“Sophisticated and organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls — often in poverty or with mental and intellectual disabilities — in public areas such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools and online.”
The report notes that the government operates shelters for victims of domestic violence but has not developed specific protection for trafficking victims.