More than half of youths involved in child prostitution last year in the nation’s three biggest metropolitan areas showed no signs of delinquency, had no criminal records and attended school regularly, according to a survey by the National Police Agency.
The findings suggest it is becoming increasingly difficult for parents and teachers to detect behavioral changes in young people, the agency said, while also warning that many juveniles were being victimized by people they had become acquainted with on social networking sites and through the use of smartphones.
The survey, released Tuesday, covered the cases of 193 girls and a boy in Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi prefectures in 2017. The victims were aged between 12 and 17, with the average being 15.8. One girl was involved in more than one case.
Of those individuals, 57.7 percent attended school every day, compared with 20.9 percent who occasionally skipped school and 16.0 percent who rarely or never attended. Meanwhile, 70.6 percent had no previous criminal record and had never been taken into custody, and 92.8 percent were living with their families.
The results were released at a seminar held in Tokyo.
Most of the juveniles were involved in prostitution for financial reasons, with 84.5 percent saying they wanted “money for leisure and other activities,” while 5.7 percent and 2.6 percent pointed to “living expenses” and “tuition,” respectively.
Other reasons included “out of curiosity” and “invited by friends.”
To prevent children from becoming involved in prostitution, the agency is encouraging parents to have their children promise before giving them smartphones that they will not meet with strangers, and to let them know when they use them for something inappropriate.
The agency said most of the people against whom action was taken on suspicion of sexually abusing children, in reported cases, were younger than 50. Given that over 70 percent were employed, the police at the seminar asked companies to take more steps to help raise employee awareness about the social issue.
Kenjiro Tada of Bond Project, a nonprofit organization supporting young women facing problems, said girls who become victims of child prostitution do not always do so because they want money.
Tada said many women who consulted him had sexual relationships because they had trouble at home or school and were seeking a place where they felt they belonged.
He called for stricter punishment of those who sexually exploit children.