National

Tokyo still weak on human-trafficking: U.N. investigator

by Masami Ito

The government will have to do much more than just revise a few laws to combat human-trafficking, the U.N. special rapporteur on the problem said Wednesday.

Sigma Huda, of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, was in Tokyo on an unofficial visit to meet with nongovernmental groups, lawyers and government officials to learn more about Japan’s antitrafficking steps.

“Trafficking is the grossest form of violation of human rights,” the Bangladeshi told a news conference. It is “when you lose the control over your own self, when you lose your own dignity” and have no say as others make money off of you.

After the United States put Japan on a watch list in June 2004 for not getting tough on human-trafficking, the government beefed up measures to address the issue, including an addition to the Penal Code that took effect Tuesday that makes the offense punishable.

Huda said the government has taken a step in the right direction, but has not done much else.

“Trafficking is not only a law and order situation,” Huda said.

“It is also a social and humanitarian issue.”

The U.N. investigator said she was shocked to hear several Japanese men at a Tokyo symposium the previous day condoning the existence of the sex industry, arguing that it is deep-rooted in Japanese culture.

Huda, who was to leave Japan on Thursday, said she hopes to make an official visit to Japan next year.

The special envoy is expected to submit a report on the situation of human-trafficking to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan next year.