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Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                             


Two notable characteristic of the post-war economy were the close interlocking structures of manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, known as keiretsu, and the guarantee of lifetime employment for a substantial portion of the urban labor force. Both features are now eroding under the dual pressures of global competition and domestic demographic change.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Japan

Japan is one of several destinations and transit countries to which men, women, and children are trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation … Most officially identified trafficking victims are foreign women who migrate willingly to Japan seeking work, but are later subjected to debts of up to $50,000 that make them vulnerable to trafficking for sexual exploitation or labor exploitation. A significant number of Japanese women and girls have also been reported as sex trafficking victims. During the last year, a number of Paraguayan children were trafficked to Japan for the purpose of forced labor. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009    Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here


CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Japan.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

Polaris Project Japan – 050-3496-7615

International Organization for Migration -35 45 24 87

Country code: 813-



Forced Labor?  Male Migrant Workers In Japan Have It Tough

Suvendrini Kakuchi, Inter Press Service IPS, Tokyo, Jun 9, 2005

[accessed 16 February 2011]

[accessed 7 June 2017]

"While the problems of human trafficking focuses on women forced into sexual slavery in Japan, there are many cases of coerced male labor in the country, a situation that still goes ignored and needs urgent attention," said Tomoyuki Yamaguchi, a counselor at the Asian Peoples' Friendship, a non-governmental organization (NGO) supporting migrant workers.

He points out that complaints by male workers sound very similar to those of trafficked women, such as low wages, long and exhausting working hours, and violence from their bosses.  The bulk of complaints are over unpaid overtime, sometimes running into years, and injuries in the workplace. The counselor said many of the workers were reluctant to confront their bosses for fear of being deported for violating their tourist visas.

Colombian Hailed as Hero in Fight Against Trafficking in Persons

Brian Kaper, The Washington File, Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, 15 June 2004

[accessed 27 August 2014]

[accessed 3 February 2018]

Francisco Sierra, Colombia's ambassador to Japan, has made it his personal goal to stop this trafficking in persons that has taken so many women into forced prostitution. For his efforts, Sierra was recognized by Secretary of State Colin Powell on June 14 as one of six heroes in the fight against an illicit industry that preys upon society's most vulnerable members.

Sierra said the women are told they will find a better life by working in other countries such as Holland, Japan, and Spain, but they most often find themselves trapped into working in brothels to pay off their so-called "transportation" fees; such fees may total as much as $50,000 to $80,000. Sierra said that the women are expected to pay their captors roughly $2,000 every ten days or they will be severely punished.



Hot Line Reaches Out To Women Forced Into Sexual Slavery In Japan

Chie Matsumoto, Asian Sex Gazette, April 30, 2005

[accessed 16 February 2011]

[accessed 3 February 2018]

After the State Department listed Japan in the next-to-worst category, the government began efforts to eradicate human trafficking and rescue rather than penalize victims, as well as prosecuting offenders.  The hot line numbers: 0120-879-871 for English and Japanese,  0120-879-872 for Thai,  0120-879-873 for Chinese and  0120-879-874 for Tagalog.


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Japan

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 13 June 13, 2021]


Indications of forced labor persisted in the manufacturing, construction, and shipbuilding sectors, primarily in small- and medium-size enterprises employing foreign nationals through the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP). This program allows foreign workers to enter the country and work for up to five years in a de facto guest worker program that many observers assessed to be rife with vulnerabilities to trafficking and other labor abuses.

Workers in the TITP experienced restrictions on freedom of movement and communication with persons outside the program, nonpayment of wages, excessive working hours, high debt to brokers in countries of origin, and retention of identity documents, despite government prohibitions on these practices. For example, some technical interns reportedly paid up to one million yen ($9,200) in their home countries for jobs and were employed under contracts that mandated forfeiture of those funds to agents in their home country if workers attempted to leave, both of which are illegal under the TITP. Workers were also sometimes subjected to “forced savings” that they forfeited by leaving early or being forcibly repatriated.


Children ages 15 to 18 may perform any job not designated as dangerous or harmful, such as handling heavy objects or cleaning, inspecting, or repairing machinery while in operation. They are also prohibited from working late night shifts. Children ages 13 to 15 years may perform “light labor” only, and children younger than age 13 may work only in the entertainment industry.

The government effectively enforced these laws.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 29 April 2020]


Individuals generally enjoy equality of opportunity, and the legal framework provides safeguards against exploitative working conditions. However, long workdays are common in practice and have been criticized as harmful to workers’ health.

Many workers are temporary or contract employees with substantially lower wages, fewer benefits, and less job security than regular employees.

Commercial sexual exploitation also remains a problem. Traffickers frequently bring foreign women into the country for forced sex work by arranging fraudulent marriages with Japanese men.

Toyota Looking Into Allegations of Human Trafficking and Sweatshop Abuses

Anita Lienert, Correspondent, Edmunds Inside Line, New York, Jun 19, 2008

[accessed 27 August 2014]

The National Labor Committee on Wednesday issued a 65-page report, "The Toyota You Don't Know," which accuses the Japanese automaker of using "low-wage temps" to build the popular Toyota Prius. The report also alleged that Toyota has "ties to Burmese dictators" through the Toyota Tsusho Corporation. "Toyota's much admired 'Just in Time' auto parts supply chain is riddled with sweatshop abuse, including the trafficking of foreign guest workers, mostly from China and Vietnam to Japan, who are stripped of their passports and often forced to work — including at subcontract plants supplying Toyota — 16 hours a day, seven days a week, while being paid less than half the legal minimum wage," the group said in a statement.

Japan arrests Thai for human trafficking

Bangkok Post, Tokyo, Oct 08 2007

[accessed 16 February 2011]

[accessed 11 February 2019]

According to local police, the two "bought" a 27-year-old Thai woman for 2.4 million yen (642,000 baht) from a broker in May to have her work at Kuo's bar.  They forced the Thai woman into prostitution, telling her she owed them a 5 million yen (more than 1.3 million baht) debt over her expenses in coming to Japan, police alleged.  The case came to light after the Thai woman sought help at the Thai Embassy in Tokyo, they said.

Thai Government and International Organizations Pledge Cooperation to Provide Assistance to Victims, June 04, 2007 -- Adapted from: "Trading in People: To ensure adults and children trafficked in Thailand receive help, state and international agencies have signed an agreement to not discriminate between victims." The Bangkok Post (Outlook), 21 May 2007 (edited). (Source: UNIAP Thailand)

[accessed 16 February 2011]

"For example, a Chiang Mai woman in her thirties was lured to Japan by a job broker from Bangkok who had offered her a job at a home for the elderly, with a monthly salary of 30,000 baht. Upon arrival in Japan, she realised she had been tricked. She ended up in a brothel owned by a yakuza gang, but managed to escape and get to the Thai embassy before she was raped." On returning to Thailand, the woman had to go into hiding after associates of the traffickers tracked her down and attacked her. She is now a spokesperson for an anti-trafficking programme in Chiang Mai.

Cops found 38 foreign victims of human trafficking in first half of 2006

29 August 2006 -- Source:

[accessed 11 July 2013]

Activists say many women voluntarily but illegally enter Japan and are then saddled with exorbitant debts to their traffickers who enslave them to repay their travel fees.

The trafficking scourge -  Japan has tackled sex trafficking, but challenges remain

Steve Silver, The Japan Times, Aug. 15, 2006

[accessed 27 August 2014]

Urairat Soimee's journey began with an invitation from a wealthy neighbor -- her mother's childhood friend -- in her small Thai village to come and work at a restaurant she claimed she owned in Japan.  It ended with her in a Japanese prison, serving a sentence for murder.

Japan Strengthens Its Efforts on Combating Human Trafficking, August 2006 -- Adapted from: ‘Slamming the brakes on human trafficking.’ Asahi Shimbun, 9 June 2006

[accessed 16 February 2011]

[accessed 11 February 2019]

Thailand was chosen because many trafficking victims in Japan are Thai women. According to the NPA, 169 of the 397 victims taken into custody between 2001 and 2005 were from Thailand. Most were duped into heavy debts, then forced to work as bar hostesses or prostitutes.

Japan may crack down on sex trafficking

United Press International UPI, Tokyo, Oct. 31, 2005

[accessed 27 August 2014]

“They know that they can't go to the police because they have no visas," she said. "They fear that if they are spotted coming to the shelter they will be killed, or that their families back home will be hurt by thugs”.

Japanese Police Report Human Trafficking Victims in First Half of 2005

Associated Press Newswires. 14 July 2005

[accessed 16 February 2011]

The number of victims was three times the tally in the first six months of last year, according to the National Police Agency report.  The Switzerland-based International Organization for Migration estimates that as many as 150,000 trafficking victims could be working in Japan's sex industry.  Activists say many women who voluntarily but illegally enter Japan are then saddled with exorbitant debts to their traffickers who enslave them to repay their travel fees.

NPA uncovers 29 cases of human trafficking, but report says much more is needed

14 July 2005 -- Source:

[accessed 16 February 2011]

The problem of human trafficking continues on a wide scale in Japan, according to a report from nongovernmental organization Japan Network Against Trafficking in Persons (JNATIP).

They have been lied to, abused and trapped in the seedy sex industry where defiance is punishable by gang rapes. And until recently, these foreign women were viewed as lawbreakers, not victims.  Yet the problem of human trafficking continues on a wide scale in Japan, according to a report from nongovernmental organization Japan Network Against Trafficking in Persons (JNATIP).

Thai woman admits selling girl into sex trade

The Japan Times, July 5, 2005

[accessed 27 August 2014]

A Thai woman in Kanagawa Prefecture has been arrested on suspicion of selling a teenage Thai girl to a woman who manages prostitutes, and a Japanese man in Tokyo was taken into custody for introducing the girl to another man for purposes of solicitation, police said Monday.  The MPD quoted Phinkaew as saying that since she arrived in Japan four years ago, she "sold" about 10 Thai girls and adult women to pimps and earned 2 million yen to 2.5 million yen for each woman.  In October 2002, Phinkaew sold the girl, who was 13 at the time, to a manager of prostitutes at a fast-food shop in Shinjuku Ward for 2.3 million yen.

Japan's Skin Trade Shame

Associated Press AP, March 18, 2005

[accessed 27 August 2014]

In the popular imagination, human trafficking involves women who are kidnapped or otherwise tricked into working as prostitutes. But experts say such cases are rare in Japan.  More common are women who come voluntarily but encounter slave-like conditions - and trapping debts - on arrival.

Internet date becomes nightmare

South African Press Association SAPA, Tokyo, 2005-05-13

[accessed 16 February 2011]

A Japanese man allegedly chained a teenage girl with a dog collar for more than three months and repeatedly raped and beat her after meeting her in an internet chat room.

Human  Traffickers

Sol Jose Vanzi, Philstar Editorial, Manila, February 28, 2005

[accessed 16 February 2011]

Tokyo wants to clamp down on Japanese crime rings, or yakuza, that bring women into that country from Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America for prostitution and forced labor. Manila should welcome this move and focus on the opening of the Japanese market for foreign nurses and caregivers.

Japanese Police Plan Fresh Crackdown On Sex Traffickers

Asian Sex Gazette, Tokyo, February 3, 2005

[accessed 16 February 2011]

Japan's crackdown on the sex trade has also drawn international criticism, with weekly pickets outside the Japanese embassy in Manila by Filipinos worried that many legitimate workers would be deprived of their livelihoods.  Japan plans to begin restricting the issue of entertainment visas -- often used in human trafficking -- only to Filipinos with two years' training outside Japan or at foreign educational institutes.

Report: Japan Sex Industry Ensnares Latin Women

Associated Press AP, Lima, Peru, April 29, 2005

[accessed 16 December 2010];wap2

[accessed 3 February 2018]

[accessed 11 February 2019]

When she arrived she was raped by all three men and sold to a Yakuza organized crime boss, who branded her across the chest with a 6-inch (15-centimeter) rose tattoo. He forced her to provide sexual services to up to 40 clients a day, she said.

Human trafficking: Asia's persistent tragedy

Marwaan Macan-Markar, Inter Press Service IPS, Bangkok, Oct 10, 2002

[accessed 16 February 2011]!topic/soc.culture.burma/laTWmsyIaVU

[accessed 11 February 2019]

[accessed 30 April 2020]

Ai, a Thai woman in her early 30s, considers herself among the lucky ones. She was rescued by a Catholic nun after 10 years of virtual sexual slavery in Japan.  "It was like hell," Ai said of her ordeal as a sex worker that began soon after she was trafficked from Thailand at the age of 15. "I was dead from the first day. After one year, I started to take drugs."  Not only was she threatened with abuse at the hands of Japan's notorious yakuza crime syndicate if she disobeyed commands to sleep with clients, but she was denied her promised salary on grounds that a substantial slice of it was needed to pay for the cost of her journey from Thailand.  "We were told that once our debts are paid off, we would be sold to someone else,"

White Slavery - Trafficking of Asian women

Suvendrini Kakuchi, The Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan FCCJ

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 7 September 2011]

Women who were lured into the sex industry tell horrific stories of gross human-rights abuses once they are in Japan. Initially promised jobs as waitresses or entertainers, these young Asian women, usually from poor families, arrive at Japanese airports only to be met by groups of gangsters. They are then held in bondage, sometimes for years, for average debts of $30,000.  The women work in slave-like conditions, providing sex to customers on a daily basis. They are under constant surveillance by their employers and are beaten regularly.

Human Trafficking For Sexual Exploitation In Japan [PDF]

International Labour Organisation ILO, Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL)

[accessed 16 February 2011]

INTRODUCTION - AIM OF THE STUDY - Relatively few studies have been undertaken on the trafficking of foreign women into Japan.  What is available forms only a fragmented image of the trafficking industry. Much of the available commentary consists of broad comment, often by mainstream media or interest groups.  These reports do not clearly identify information sources or disaggregate terms and broad-based statistics.

The study aims to make a contribution to understanding of the trafficking of foreign women into Japan by avoiding generalizations and sourcing data wherever possible. It aims to add to the body of research in Japan by presenting a clearer profile of human trafficking: the victims, the abuses they suffer, and the deceptions used by traffickers. It focuses primarily on the experiences of victims in order to better understand the push and pull factors of trafficking, providing details on both the situation in three main countries of origin (Colombia, the Philippines and Thailand) and the social and legal factors that make Japan a profitable market in particular for organized crime groups.

Japan tries to erase taint of sex slavery

Takehiko Kambayashi, The Washington Times, Tokyo, June 18, 2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 7 September 2011]

Like most victims of trafficking in humans, Mia, who wanted to help her family financially, was told by an acquaintance in Thailand that she could get "a good job" in Japan.  Once in this country, however, Mia faced something totally unexpected — fictitious debts that she had to repay by renting her body for sex. She and other foreign women were kept under rigorous surveillance and never allowed to go out by themselves; they were shuttled between their apartment and workplaces such as bars and hotels.  "I wanted to be treated as a human being," Mia told Mrs. Otsu. "I am a human being," she said before describing the humiliations she had endured.

Even in Tokyo, there are very few places victims can go for help.  Most private shelters in Japan are financially strapped and operated by volunteers and private donations. They receive very little money from the government.  The usual way Japan deals with victims of human trafficking is to arrest them for violating immigration laws and deport them to their homeland. Politicians and the mainstream media have long ignored this.  "It's hard to say that the seriousness of human-trafficking issues is widely recognized in Japanese society," said Kaname Tsutsumi, a professor who teaches sex and ethnicity issues at Kyushu International University. "In addition, the society casts a very cold eye on foreign women involved in prostitution."

Colombia, Japan to tackle trafficking

The Asahi Shimbun -- International Herald Tribune IHT/Asahi, January 19,2005

[accessed 16 February 2011]

[accessed 30 April 2020]

The Japanese and Colombian governments have agreed on a series of steps aimed at preventing human trafficking and providing support to sex-trade victims.  This is Japan's second government-level agreement on human trafficking. The first was reached with the Philippines in September.

The officials explained to their Colombian counterparts about Japan's new policy of treating women duped into exploitation as victims to protect. The women will be allowed to stay in shelters for an extended period of time rather than be subject to immediate deportation.

Japan put on sex-trade watch list

CNN Producer Paul Courson contributed to this story, Cable News Network CNN, Washington DC, June 14, 2004

[accessed 16 February 2011]

Japan "has a huge problem with slavery, particularly sex slavery, a tremendous gap between the size of the problem and the resources and efforts devoted to addressing the problem," senior State Department adviser John Miller said Monday.  Miller told reporters that he visited Japan, and "I found only two small shelters, each with eight to 10 beds."  He also criticized Japan for prosecutions that "did not appear to be a great effort" and said sentences were "relatively light" for people convicted of "sex tourism" there.

Japan accused of giving haven to people traffickers

Deborah Cameron, Sydney Morning Herald SMH, Tokyo, November 26, 2004

[accessed 16 February 2011]

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly also be accessible [here]

"Human traffickers operating through a loophole in Japan's immigration law have made the country a target destination for poor workers and landed it on an official blacklist.  Women and girls from the Philippines, farm workers from Indonesia and China and desperate women from the states of the collapsed Soviet Union are brought to Japan under a visa system wide open to abuse, lawyers and human rights groups say.

Japan’s Action Plan of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons [PDF]

December 7, 2004

[accessed 11 July 2013]

[accessed 30 April 2020]

The Action Plan clearly states that victims of trafficking in persons are eligible for protection and calls for careful response to be made in consideration of the different conditions of each victim, while giving due thought to the severe mental and physical situation in which many of victims find themselves. Regarding the penalties for perpetrators (brokers and employers, etc.), the Action Plan calls for the criminal law to be amended, reflecting the gravity of the crime, and for control measures to be further strengthened. The Action Plan also aims to prevent the trafficking in persons, stepping into the various systems and structures that may have played a part in making trafficking in persons in Japan easier.

Japan  Probing Human Trafficking In RP

Sol Jose Vanzi, STAR, Philippine Headline News Online, September 9 , 2004

[accessed 11 July 2013]

The deluge of entertainers to Japan from the Philippines and Thailand has become a serious problem for his government, he added.  Ogawa said many of these entertainers have unwittingly ended up as prostitutes upon their arrival in Japan.  Ogawa said the Philippines and Japan must work together to try to solve the problem of human trafficking as it affects both countries.  The problem can be effectively solved if stopped at its source, he added.

Japan immigration law promotes human trafficking

Inquirer News Service -- Published on page A14 of the January 5, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 7 September 2011]

The Partial Amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act aims to immediately decrease the number of “illegal foreign residents” in Japan, in reaction to a purported ?deterioration of public security? and rampant human trafficking. The law could affect at least 31,000 overstaying Filipinos, 82,000 Filipino entertainers and thousands of Filipinas married to Japanese. The new law has outlawed their continued stay in Japan, effective Dec. 2, 2004. Thus, most of the 304,678 Filipinos in Japan may be subjected to the harsh, inhumane penalties and procedures under the law. These include warrantless arrests, jail terms, steep fines and deportation.

But the law and the crackdown on undocumented Filipinos in Japan do not address the issue of human trafficking. It will only raise revenues for the Japanese authorities by further penalizing Filipino victims of human trafficking. Meanwhile, human traffickers will go scot-free, continue wreaking havoc on the lives of foreign residents even as they amass more profits out of the blood and sweat of migrant workers.

Japan plans to slash visas to Filipinos to curb sex trade

Agence France Presse AFP, November 24, 2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 7 September 2011]

Japan plans to slash ten-fold the number of visas issued to Filipinos as "entertainers" in a bid to stop sex trafficking, a problem whose scale has put Japan on a US watch list, a report said Wednesday.  Japan would trim the number of entertainment visas issued to Filipinos from 80,000 to 8,000 a year, according to Kyodo News, which said it obtained a government action plan against human trafficking.

Is trafficking in human beings demand driven?: a multi-country pilot study

Bridget Anderson and Julia O’Connell Davidson, Save the Children Sweden, ISBN:91-7321-069-2, 2003

[Long URL]

[accessed 17 February 2022]

INTRODUCTION - Part I of this report sets out to review current debates and existing research on “the demand side of trafficking”.

Owed Justice - Thai Women Trafficked into Debt Bondage in Japan

Human Rights Watch, ISBN 1-56432-252-1, Library of Congress Card Number: 00-107963 , September 2000

[accessed 16 February 2011]

IV. PROFILES - In this chapter, Human Rights Watch profiles four women who were trafficked from Thailand into servitude in Japan. Human Rights Watch interviewed numerous women who recounted similar experiences.

POT - It was a big room and four or five other women going to work in Japan were also kept there. I was surprised to be locked up because I was not allowed any chance to say goodbye to my family, even over the phone. I heard the agents talking about the price for each woman being between 150-160 bai [1.5-1.6 million yen; US$10,000-11,000], but I couldn't really understand what they were talking about and did not realize that we were being sold into prostitution.

KAEW - Kaew explained that she had understood there would be some debt for the airplane ticket and other expenses, but she had never been told how high her debt would be, and she was shocked at the amount. "The other girls said to me, 'that's a lot of debt and you're old; you'll never pay it off.' Then I prayed that it would only take six or seven months to pay it off, and I went with all of the clients I could. . . . The mama said to me, 'don't let your period come, or you'll never finish paying your debt.'" So Kaew also took contraceptive pills daily, though she had been sterilized at age twenty-one, so that she would not menstruate and could work every day.(7) She got her mother to send the pills from Thailand, so that she would not have to buy them from her mama and increase the level of her debt.

The Protection Project - Japan

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[accessed 2009]

[accessed 22 February 2016]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - Trafficking in women into the Japanese sex industry first received attention in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Filipino women began migrating to Japan in large numbers, often falling victim to exploitation in the process.  In 2002, 123,322 people came to Japan on entertainer visas, 60 percent of them Filipino women. The majority of these women work in pubs as hostesses, sometimes prostituting themselves.  Most Filipinas trafficked to Japan are sent by organized criminal groups. Family or friends of the victim often initiate contact with the recruiter. Most victims are told they will work as singers, cashiers, chambermaids, or hostesses, but in reality they are forced to sell or administer drugs, appear in pornographic videos, prostitute themselves, or recruit other Filipino women. The criminals involved use a number of control mechanisms, such as confiscation of passports, bullying tactics, threats, abuse, or withholding of salary. Some Filipino women reported that they had contact with corrupt Japanese officials.


Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 1   Civil Liberties: 1   Status: Free

2018 Edition

[accessed 29 April 2020]


Human trafficking is an issue in Japan. Traffickers frequently bring foreign women into the country for forced sex work by arranging fraudulent marriages with Japanese men. Foreign workers enrolled in state-backed technical “internships” sometimes face exploitative conditions and forced labor; in November 2017, legislation was implemented to strengthen oversight of the program and punish violations.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 9 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Trafficking victims generally did not realize the extent of their indebtedness, the amount of time it would take them to repay the debts, or the conditions of employment to which they would be subjected upon arrival. According to Human Rights Watch, the passports of women trafficked to work in "dating" bars usually were confiscated by their employers, who also demanded repayment for the cost of the woman's "purchase." Typically, the women were charged $28,570 to $47,620 (3 million to 5 million yen), their living expenses, medical care (when provided by the employer), and other necessities, as well as "fines" for misbehavior added to the original "debt" over time. How the debt was calculated was left to the employers; the process was not transparent, and the employers reportedly often used the debt to coerce additional unpaid labor from the trafficked women. Employers also sometimes "resold," or threatened to resell, troublesome women or women found to be HIV positive, thereby increasing the victims' debts and possibly worsening their working conditions.

Many women trafficked into the sex trade had their movements strictly controlled by their employers and were threatened with reprisals, sometimes through members of organized crime groups, to themselves or their families if they tried to escape. Employers often isolated the women, subjected them to constant surveillance, and used violence to punish them for disobedience. There were reports that some brokers used drugs to subjugate victims. Many trafficked women also knew that they were subject to arrest if found without their passports or other identification documents. Few spoke Japanese well, making escape even more difficult.

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