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I. Summary
II. Key Recommendations
III. Context
IV. Profiles
V. International Legal Standards On Trafficking In Women
VI. Recruited In Thailand--Sold On Japan
VII. Servitude In The "Snack Bars"
VIII. Deportation As "Illegal Aliens"
IX. Response Of The Japanese Government
X. Response Of The Thai Government
XI. International Response
XII. Recommendations
  • To the Japanese Government
  • To the Thai Government
  • To the Japanese and Thai Governments
  • To All Governments
  • To Intergovernmental Organizations
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
International Organization For Migration (IOM)
International Labor Organization (ILO)
World Health Organization (WHO)
Human Rights Watch OWED JUSTICE
Thai Women Trafficked into Debt Bondage in Japan

Human Rights Watch
New York Washington London Brussels
Copyright September 2000 by Human Rights Watch.
All rights reserved.
Printed in the Unted States of America.
ISBN 1-56432-252-1
Library of Congress Card Number: 00-107963


Undocumented foreigners are entitled under international law to the same basic human rights protections as all other individuals. These rights include the right to be free from slavery-like practices and forced labor, the right to be free from torture and other cruel or degrading treatment, the right to a fair trial, and the right to freedom from discrimination. These rights are also guaranteed under the Japanese Constitution and reflected in domestic legislation. Yet, in practice, women trafficked from Thailand into Japan's sex industry are rarely afforded such protections. High-ranking Japanese officials have acknowledged trafficking as a persistent and large-scale problem, but the government has yet to make a serious effort to address the abuses connected with it. 

Trafficking in persons typically involves multiple actors and a range of abuses. Efforts to combat it must be designed to respond to each of the human rights abuses and to provide victims with strong incentives to come forward, report crimes, and cooperate with law enforcement officials. The Japanese government lacks policies designed specifically to respond to trafficking and has yet to aggressively enforce existing laws against forced labor, forced prostitution, illegal confinement, coercive job placement, and other severe abuses committed against trafficked women by traffickers and employers. Indeed, instead of guaranteeing the safety of trafficked persons and ensuring their access to compensation and redress, the government all too often effectively penalizes them for abuses that have occurred as a result of their having been trafficked.

Human Rights Watch found that while brokers and snack bar employers were sometimes charged with employing illegal aliens, failing to properly register their business under the Entertainment Businesses Law, or procuring prostitutes for customers, evidence of more serious crimes was rarely investigated. Furthermore, victims of trafficking and debt bondage were deported as illegal aliens without any opportunity to seek compensation for the abuses they had suffered, and no government resources were provided for their shelter, medical care, travel expenses, or other necessary services.
  Response to Trafficking in Persons -- Rhetoric without action There is a growing willingness among Japanese officials to acknowledge and discuss the problem of trafficking in persons, but serious efforts to address the issue are still lacking. When the United Nations Committee on Human Rights observed in 1998 that "traffic in women and insufficient protection for women subject to trafficking and slavery-like practices remain serious concerns" in Japan, (423) the director of the human rights and refugee division of Japan's Foreign Ministry agreed that women who entered the country through brokers were "frequently forced into prostitution in their workplaces in entertainment businesses." (424) Despite this seeming understanding of the slavery-like nature of the offense, the Japanese delegation pointed to a recent amendment to the Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement Businesses (hereinafter: Entertainment Businesses Law) as the government's primary effort to address the problem. This amendment, which went into effect in April 1999, prohibits anyone engaged in operating an entertainment business from either imposing an unreasonably high debt (relative to the debtor's ability to repay it) that must be repaid at the time that the debtor leaves (or tries to leave) his/her job, or confiscating the identification normally needed to apply for a job (including a passport) from an employee upon whom an "unreasonably" high debt has been imposed. (425) Although any legal measure designed to address the tactics used to control trafficked women represents a step forward, the usefulness of this provision is unclear. It is narrowly written, and no criminal penalties are provided; a business found to be in violation would only have its license revoked. As of March 2000, the National Police Agency reported that the new provision had not yet been used. (426)

At a seminar organized by the Thai Embassy in Tokyo in September 1999, Japanese officials reiterated their understanding of the problem of trafficking and their concern for the victims. The seminar was designed to identify the problems faced by Thai sex workers in Japan and to discuss possible solutions. Toshikino Itami, director of the enforcement division of Japan's Immigration Bureau, explained that many women from Thailand are "sold" to sex business operators for more than four million yen, and then are forced to repay this amount before they can begin earning money for themselves. He also noted that in most of these cases, the women's passports are confiscated by their employers. (427)

In January 2000, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored its own conference on trafficking, the "Asia-Pacific Symposium on Trafficking in Persons." The Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, giving one of the key-note statements, acknowledged the seriousness of the problem of trafficking and cited Japan's participation in international efforts to frame responses to the issue as evidence of his government's concern. (428) But neither the President of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), Toshinori Kanemoto, nor the Director-General of the Immigration Bureau, Yukio Machida, pointed to any concrete efforts to combat trafficking beyond investigating and prosecuting traffickers for facilitating illegal migration, a charge that scarcely begins to address the range of abuses perpetrated against trafficking victims. Moreover, Machida expressed doubts about whether there really is a significant trafficking problem in Japan, claiming that incidents of coercion are rare and the majority of so-called "trafficking victims" are merely illegal migrants with crime syndicates "behind them." A similar attitude was evident during Kanemoto's comments; as evidence of Japan's efforts to combat trafficking, he cited statistics for the number of "stowaways" arrested on charges of entering the country illegally and the number of foreign women arrested on charges of prostitution, indecency, or violating the Entertainment Businesses Law. No statistics were provided regarding the arrests of traffickers or employers of undocumented migrants. (429)

These comments suggest that Japanese law enforcement authorities continue to target the victims of trafficking, rather than the traffickers themselves. They also disregard the forms of coercion commonly employed by traffickers and employers of trafficked women, such as debt bondage and threats of injury to women and their families. When Human Rights Watch met with a panel of Japanese government officials, including representatives from the National Police Agency, the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, and the Criminal Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, in April 1999, we asked whether there had been any attempt to train police to identify trafficking victims and the abuses they may have suffered. The only person to respond, Police Inspector Akio Koshikawa, answered by explaining that the police were cooperating with the Thai Embassy, NGOs, and others to arrest traffickers. (430)

Existing legislation that could be used to punish trafficking and debt bondage

There are several laws already on the books in Japan that could be used to punish persons who traffic in women, such as the penal code and Japanese "special" laws regarding prostitution, the entertainment industry, labor standards, and immigration. These laws include many provisions that could address the slavery-like practices involved in the recruitment and employment of women from Thailand and elsewhere and that could provide compensation to victims. (431)

Penal Code

The physical confinement and violent threats that brokers and employers use to control indebted women could be prosecuted under articles 220 and 222 of the Penal Code (Law No. 45). Article 220 proscribes restrictions on freedom of movement: "A person, who illegally arrests or confines another, shall be punished with penal servitude for not less than three months nor more than five years." (432) Article 222 prescribes penalties of up to two years' imprisonment or a five hundred yen fine for anyone who threatens to injure the "life, person, liberty, reputation, or property" of a person or his/her relative. The penalty is steeper, up to three years in jail, if the intimidation causes the victim to perform an act which he/she is not bound to perform. (433)

Articles 225 and 227 of the Penal Code forbid kidnapping "by force or allurement for the purpose of profit, obscenity or marriage" and "receiv[ing] a person having been kidnapped or sold" for the purpose of profit or obscenity. Maximum penalties are ten years and seven years, respectively. Brokers in Japan who "receive" women from their agents and/or escorts, hold them by force or threat of force, and then deliver them to snack bar employers for a profit without giving the women the option of selecting or refusing their placement, violate both of these provisions. Employers who "procure" women without their consent also violate the anti-kidnapping provision. 

Recognizing the additionally aggravating consequences when victims are transported across international borders, Japan also has legislation in place that explicitly targets the kidnaping, buying, and selling of persons for the purpose of transporting them out of Japan. (434)

Strikingly, however, the Japanese Diet has not passed legislation to cover cases in which persons are transported into Japan, as some Japanese opponents of this trade in people have advocated. Human Rights Watch would support the introduction of such legislation, which should explicitly target those involved in the transport, sale, or purchase of persons for the purpose of placing them into debt bondage or forced labor in a country not their own (whether or not "kidnapping" in the country of origin can be proven).

There are other more general penal code provisions that could be applied against traffickers. The physical abuse of women by brokers, employers, employers' associates, and clients is punishable under Japan's assault laws, which prescribe penalties for inflicting injury and encouraging the infliction of injury. (435) Prison sentences are also prescribed for acts of sexual assault and rape. Using violence or threats to commit an indecent act is punishable by a minimum of six months and a maximum of seven years' imprisonment, and the offense of rape, involving violence or threat, is punishable by two to fifteen years of imprisonment. (436) Further, the confiscation of women's passports, wages, tips, and other belongings could be prosecuted under provisions against theft. (437)

Anti-Prostitution Laws

Prostitution is defined by the Prostitution Prevention Law (Law No. 118) (hereinafter, PPL) as "sexual intercourse with an unspecified other party for compensation or for a promise of compensation." (438) The law covers only vaginal sexual intercourse and does not purport to deal with exchange of other sexual services for pay. While being a prostitute or a client of a prostitute is prohibited under this law, there are no penalties provided for the act of prostitution itself; rather, penalties are provided for a range of activities associated with the business of prostitution. "Prostitutes" are prohibited from publicly soliciting clients, an offense which carries a penalty of up to six months' imprisonment or up to a 10,000 yen fine. The rest of the PPL's provisions are targeted at brokers and employers in the sex industry (there are no penalties provided for clients of prostitutes), and contain prohibitions on:
  • procuring a prostitute for someone else;
  • deceiving or influencing someone to prostitute;
  • using violence or the threat of violence to force someone to prostitute;
  • receiving or demanding compensation for someone else's act of prostitution;
  • giving an advance with an intent to make someone prostitute;
  • concluding a contract to make someone prostitute;
  • knowingly furnishing a place for prostitution;
  • engaging in the business of furnishing the place for prostitution; and engaging in the business of making a person live in a prostitution place and prostitute herself.

The maximum penalties for these offenses range from two to ten years' imprisonment and/or 50,000 to 3 million yen in fines. (439) Punishments for the use of force to compel women to engage in prostitution are relatively mild. A maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment or a 100,000 yen fine is provided for "any person who threatens or uses violence towards a person and makes her prostitute." (440) The same penalties are prescribed for compelling someone to engage in prostitution by deception, embarrassment, or taking advantage of kinship ties. (441) These penalties are substantially less than the up to ten years' imprisonment prescribed for forced labor under Japanese labor laws, which will be discussed in more detail below. (442)

In addition to the Prostitution Prevention Law, a new law prohibiting child prostitution and pornography was passed in 1999. The Legislation on Punishment for Child Prostitution and Child Pornography covers sexual intercourse and/or similar acts performed by adults with any person under the age of eighteen by offering or promising compensation to him/her. It includes penalties for clients as well as for third parties involved in facilitating child prostitution. It is also extraterritorial in scope, so that it can be applied to Japanese perpetrators whether they have committed their crimes in Japan or abroad.

Entertainment Businesses Law

The Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement Businesses (Law No. 122) (hereinafter, the Entertainment Businesses Law) regulates the sale of sexual services that do not constitute "prostitution" under the Prostitution Prevention Law. That is, the sale of any sexual acts excepting vaginal sexual intercourse, is not illegal as long as it is done in accordance with the regulations of the Entertainment Businesses Law. This act specifies licensing, zoning, and other types of regulations for a variety of entertainment venues. Under the law, entertainment businesses are divided into two main categories, entertainment businesses and sex entertainment businesses, each of which has two sub-categories. Entertainment businesses include restaurants that provide non-sexual entertainment, such as cabarets and dance halls, as well as other amusement businesses, such as mah-jong clubs and pinball parlors. Sex entertainment businesses include "store form" businesses, in which sexual entertainment is provided on the premises, such as strip clubs, sex shops, "soap lands," and private video rooms; and "non-store form" businesses, which arrange for sexual services to be conducted elsewhere, such as telephone escort services and mail order adult video services; and transmittable visual sex entertainment businesses -- internet pornography. 

In principle, "dating" snack bars, in which customers pay to take women out of the bar for sexual services, are subject to strict reporting requirements under the law as non-store form sex entertainment businesses. Such businesses are also prohibited from employing people under the age of eighteen or from having clients under the age of eighteen, and are subject to the new provisions against excessively high debts described above. (443) These provisions could be used to penalize snack bar owners and managers, although the maximum penalties are light -- typically a fine and/or a prison term of no more than six months.

Labor Laws

Japanese labor laws, and particularly the Labor Standards Law (LSL) and the Employment Security Law (ESL), establish minimum acceptable labor standards and provide for a range of employment protections against abuses by employers and job brokers. These laws make no distinction between workers on the basis of immigration status. Under the LSL, employers who "force workers to work against their will by means of violence, intimidation, imprisonment, or any other unfair restraint on the mental or physical freedom of the workers" are liable for penalties of one to ten years' imprisonment or fifty thousand to one million yen. (444) Wages must be paid "at least once a month at a definite date," "in cash and in full directly to the workers," (445) and all forms of indebted labor are prohibited, whether or not the practice rises to the level of debt bondage. (446) The law requires employers to clarify working conditions, including wages, working hours, and other conditions, and it sets minimum requirements for these conditions. The LSL also establishes minimum standards for dormitory living, not only requiring that employers provide adequate facilities, but also prohibiting them from "infring[ing] on the freedom of the personal lives of workers." Finally, the Labor Standards Law provides detailed requirements for medical compensation in cases of work-related illnesses and injuries, prohibits dismissal due to injury, and outlines procedures for complaining about employer response to illnesses and injuries. (447)

Japanese labor laws also contain numerous provisions that could be used against those who place women into forced labor conditions. Until 1999, the ESL forbade fee-charging employment placement projects in nearly all industries, and while recent revisions have loosened this restriction, a permit from the Minister of Labor is still required. (448) Furthermore, the ESL prescribes steep punishments for coercive or otherwise egregious types of illegal job placement activities. (449) The Workers Dispatching Law, which regulates businesses involved in the employment placement of temporary workers, provides similar penalties for "a person who has dispatched a worker with an intention of having workers do work injurious to public health or public morals." (450)

Japanese labor laws are enforced by a network of labor offices. Primary responsibility rests with the central government's Ministry of Labor. Its Labor Standards Bureau and Employment Security Bureau have local offices throughout the country tasked with addressing violations of the Labor Standards Law and Employment Security Law, respectively. Tokyo and several prefectures, such as Kanagawa, Osaka, and Nagano, also have local government labor offices. A local government labor official in Tokyo told Human Rights Watch that only the Tokyo and Kanagawa labor offices are empowered to handle migrant workers' cases. (451) Labor offices generally negotiate settlements in disputes between employers and employees without recourse to the courts. However, the Labor Standards Inspection Offices also have the authority to send cases directly to the public prosecutor, while Employment Security Offices and local government labor offices can send difficult cases to the police. (452)

Immigration Law

The Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (hereinafter, the Immigration Control Act) is the primary tool used by Japanese law enforcement authorities to prevent and punish the unauthorized entry, residence, and/or employment of foreigners. It is under this law that all illegal entrants, visa overstayers, foreigners engaging in "activities outside of their visa status," and holders of false travel documents are prosecuted and/or deported. While most of its provisions are targeted at the illegal aliens themselves, a new provision was enacted in 1990 providing penalties for persons involved in the job placement and employment of undocumented migrants. This provision carries the same maximum prison term -- three years -- as illegally entering the country or overstaying one's visa, with higher maximum fines. (453)

Lack of due diligence in enforcing existing laws against trafficking and forced labor abuses

Despite the battery of laws described above, traffickers and employers continue to exploit migrant women with virtual impunity. Brokers and employers are sometimes targeted for their involvement in the illegal transport or employment of migrant workers, for violations of the Entertainment Businesses Law, or for procuring prostitutes for clients. According to Police Inspector Akio Koshikawa of the Community Safety Bureau, since at least the mid-1990s, several hundred people have been arrested each year for employing illegal aliens. (454) There is also some evidence that the Japanese authorities have stepped up their efforts to investigate and prosecute brokers of trafficked women for facilitating illegal migration. However, it seems that disproportionately few brokers or employers are investigated, prosecuted, or punished for the abuses they inflict on trafficked women. Though we asked every advocate and government official with whom we met for statistics or examples of brokers or employers who had been investigated or punished for abusing migrant women, Human Rights Watch was only able to identify a few cases. Morover, it appeared that even the rare instances we identified were possible only with an enormous dedication of time and resources by volunteer lawyers and other advocates in Japan. As a result, the deception, coercion, violence, intimidation, illegal confinement, debt bondage, and forced labor to which trafficked women are subjected continues to go unpunished. This may be due partly to flaws in the laws, which were not designed specifically to address abuses of the trafficking and debt bondage suffered by foreign women. But it is primarily the result of a lack of political will and apparent indifference on the part of the National Policy Agency and the Immigration Bureau to the coercion and abuse suffered by women seen as "illegal aliens" and "prostitutes." 

Attorney Tadanori Onitsuka, who has spent many years working on behalf of immigration detainees, asserted that foreign women are essentially excluded from legal protection due to their undocumented immigration status:

Investigations are initiated when a victim complains. And in most cases, when [undocumented migrant] women try to appeal to police, the police say you've broken the law and must go home. So when the women try to complain about their situation to the police, the police don't take them seriously, they just focus on the women's violation of the immigration law. It's arbitrary and up to the individual police officer. If that officer wants to investigate, they will. Otherwise, if NGOs, lawyers, and other advocates push a case then the police will have to investigate. But the key point is that they should always act, and they don't. (455)

And, in Onitsuka's experience, immigration officials are also generally uninterested in addressing abuses suffered by "illegal aliens." "The subject of immigration is the foreigners -- the purpose is to interview the foreigners to find a reason to deport them. . . . Even if the immigration authorities know the employer's name and address they won't bring this information to the police, because that's not their objective." (456)

In their meetings with Human Rights Watch, Japanese lawyers, migrants' rights advocates, women's shelter staff, and government officials all supported the view that neither police nor immigration officials are interested in investigating or prosecuting those responsible for the abuses suffered by undocumented migrant women. In one meeting with a panel of officials from the National Police Agency, the Criminal Affairs Bureau, and the Immigration Bureau of Japan, Human Rights Watch was given a list of legal provisions that could be used to punish the human rights abuses committed by the traffickers and employers of women from Thailand. This list included the prohibitions in the Labor Standards Law against forced labor and indebted labor; the prohibitions in the Employment Security Act and the Workers' Dispatching Law against coercive job placement and placement into work injurious to the public health or morals; the provisions regarding kidnapping and receiving a person who has been kidnapped in the Penal Code; the Immigration Control Act's provision against employing illegal aliens; and a number of Prostitution Prevention Law provisions prohibiting involvement in the business of prostitution, including specific prohibitions against using violence or threat of violence to force someone to prostitute. However, with the exception of the immigration law, the officials failed to provide specific information about their implementation of these provisions. 

Immigration officer Makiyoshi Uehara said that this was the responsibility of police: "We don't have the power to do anything about [the traffickers]. So we give the information to the police and sometimes work together to crack down." Police Inspector Koshikawa provided statistics for arrests under Article 73-2 of the Immigration Control Act, prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens, (457) but he did not know whether any of those arrested also had been charged with non-immigration criminal offenses. (458) He explained candidly, "If a foreign woman asks the koban [police box] for help, we first see if she is legal or illegal. If she is legal then we fight against the broker. If she is illegal then we have to send her to immigration. But at the Immigration Detention Center, they will investigate what kinds of violence she has suffered." (459) However, the task of immigration officials, in the words of immigration officer Uehara, "is deporting the women who are staying here illegally," (460) and the evidence suggests that they are largely unconcerned with investigating abuses suffered by the people they deport. Even when immigration officials actually locate abusive employers in order to claim money to cover a woman's deportation expenses, interviews Human Rights Watch carried out with trafficking victims, local advocates, and Japanese government officials indicate that immigration officials make no effort to hold these employers accountable for the crimes they have committed against the women -- or to turn relevant information over to the police for investigation. According to one local government labor official in Tokyo, who Human Rights Watch met alone, "once a year or so, high level officials from the Ministry of Labor and the Immigration Bureau have a meeting to exchange information about the numbers of cases and maybe talk about very serious cases. But these are only high-ranking officials, not case workers, so they do not discuss details." (461)

During its meeting with Japanese law enforcement officials, Human Rights Watch asked why it had not heard of any cases in which the prohibitions against coercive job placement contained in the Employment Security Law had been applied against brokers who traffic in foreign women. In response, attorney Yutaka Matsumoto of the Ministry of Justice's Criminal Affairs Bureau said that the penalties under this law were quite severe, and he could not explain why the law was used so rarely. (462) A local government labor official told Human Rights Watch that the job placement regulations in the Employment Security Law are poorly understood, even by officials in the Employment Security Offices, (463) and thus rarely enforced. The official went on to explain that, "when police or labor inspectors send a case to the public prosecutor, they must specify which law should be applied and what the evidence is. The forms are very complicated, so they must really understand a law in order to use it. Therefore, they will usually just use a law they understand better." (464)

For migrant women who endure forced labor and other forms of exploitation in the Japanese sex industry, officials' indifference to the violations suffered by undocumented migrants is compounded by their reluctance to enforce provisions against abusive labor practices in that industry. Attorney Yoko Hayashi told Human Rights Watch that in her experience, it had been impossible to get police to file charges of forced prostitution under the Prostitution Prevention Law:

To prosecute forced prostitution you must first prove prostitution, and to do this you are required to produce the specific names of the customers (police will ask for business cards) -- so when I asked the police why they didn't arrest employers for forced prostitution involving foreigners, they explained that it was because the women can't recognize their customers' names. To prove that forced prostitution has taken place, you must prove that the woman actually took clients and so she will have to provide clients' names. Then the police will ask the clients to come in and sign a statement admitting to buying sex--without the name there will be no investigation by police. (465)

A staff member at MsLA women's shelter in Kanagawa prefecture also alleged that police only detain suspects if they have several male witnesses; the word of a prostitute alone is not considered enough. (466) Yayori Matsui, Director of the Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center, said she was given a more cynical explanation when she asked a police officer why nothing is done about the forced prostitution of foreign women: "If we make a big effort to track guns or drugs, the media will report it and we will get lots of credit. But prostitution cases take so much time and effort to investigate, and then it is still not considered news and the media won't appreciate our efforts." (467) Attorney Yukiko Oshima asserted that in some cases, at least, police inaction is due to ties with snack bar owners. She pointed to one case in which a woman had run away from a snack bar in Sawara City: "A woman ran away to HELP. It turned out that the police were close to the owners of the snack bar and often used the bar. HELP called the police station [in Sawara]. The police didn't do anything. Then HELP found out that there was a close relationship. There are many cases like this." (468)

Advocates who had tried to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of abuses suffered by trafficked women recounted numerous examples of the frustration they met at the hands of Japanese authorities. In 1994, Human Rights Watch met with Kazuo Tanaka, (469) a Japanese man who has assisted many women in their efforts to escape from debt bondage and abusive employers. He told Human Rights Watch of his persistent frustration at trying to obtain the cooperation of the police. Tanaka has collaborated with MsLA and other Japanese NGOs to rescue foreign women and refer them to shelters and embassies for assistance. In some instances he has also tried to enlist the help of the police. In 1991, for example, when the three Thai women in the "Shimodate Incident," described above, were arrested for murdering their mama, Tanaka quickly formed the "Support Group for the Three Thais in the Shimodate Case" and recruited a lawyer, Attorney Chinami Kajo, to defend them. (470) Two years later, while the women's murder trial dragged on, Tanaka tried to file charges of kidnapping and pimping against the snack bar manager, recruiter, and broker involved in forcing these women to work as sex workers. Tanaka recalled,

In August 1993, I went to the Ibaraki prefectural police department to file charges against the management of the snack where the women worked, their recruiter, and the broker for kidnapping and pimping. The prefectural police responded by saying that they did not have enough people and therefore could not conduct an investigation. I was told to go to the local police. I then went to the Shimodate police station to file the charges and they responded saying, "there is not enough evidence to prove prostitution was going on. Bring the names of thirty people who have been customers." (471)

The police refused to conduct even a preliminary investigation into these charges, despite the shocking descriptions of coercion and abuse related in the women's police statements and court testimony during the murder investigation and trial. (472) A year later, Tanaka told us that the club was still operating under a new name. (473)

In another case, police only responded reluctantly to Tanaka's appeals for assistance in rescuing nine badly beaten Thai women, but they refused to conduct any investigation of their attackers. Tanaka had met six of the women in June 1993, when they were beaten by Yakuza members after a failed escape attempt. At the time they had been too afraid to run away, but they asked Tanaka for his phone number in case they changed their minds. In August 1993, he received a call:

I took two other men with me to the snack. As soon as I sat down, a woman sat next to me and immediately said that she was afraid and showed me wounds around her neck. Because my team had only three people, we could only take three women out. We decided to take the three with the worst wounds and then come back to get the others. We got the women out of the snack at around 12 a.m. and went to the police station. Initially, the women didn't want to go to the police, but I told them that I would make sure the police didn't arrest them, and that it was necessary to go to try to help the other women. When we arrived, only the police from the Traffic Bureau were there. We were told to come back the next day to see the Crime Prevention Bureau, which is in charge of dealing with the Yakuza. They refused to take a report. I returned to the police station with the three women at 8 a.m. the next morning. The Crime Prevention Bureau recorded the condition of the injuries. They located the snack bar on a map and confirmed the names of the managers. I asked the police not to arrest any of the women and to arrest and punish the management for assault and organized prostitution. But the police only agreed to the former. They said that if the management was indicted, the women would have to be witnesses, and the only way the women could stay [in Japan] is if they were arrested. Forty policemen and I went to the snack in four buses. We circled the snack, but because the police didn't have an arrest warrant, they couldn't go in. I went inside with my friends and got three women. I found out that three others were at a different location and also got them. The police said that the condition of the nine women was not enough evidence for a trial. (474)

According to Tanaka, "when the police 'investigate' a snack, they telephone the snack and ask for the boss. If they get an answer that the boss isn't there, that's where the investigation ends." He concluded, "There are police who move and police who don't move. The ones who move, move only halfway." (475)

Tanaka's experiences in Ibaraki prefecture were echoed by advocates in other parts of Japan. In 1999, Human Rights Watch met with the director of a women's shelter in Tokyo who has come into contact with numerous women escaping from debt bondage, domestic violence, and other abusive situations. She pointed to many cases in which she had reported incidents to the police or sought their assistance, but had received, at best, only a reluctant response. For example, she had sought police intervention when an increasing number of Colombian women had come to the shelter in 1998 and 1999, escaping from forced sex work, but had faced stiff resistance:

When Colombian women come here, they always name the same boss. So we go to the police and tell them to arrest him, and they say "yes, yes." But then the next woman comes and says her boss is the same man, so we go back to the police and again they say "yes, yes." They don't give us any excuses, but they don't do anything either. On February 17 [1999], they finally arrested a main boss in the Colombian trade, but this was only because a journalist exposed him and there were articles about him in the Tokyo Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun [two large Japanese newspapers]. Also, he was only arrested for employing illegal workers and though he is in jail now, he will probably get only a 300,000 yen [US$2,500] fine. (476)

The police had also received information about this man from the Board of Directors of the Women's Christian Temperance Union of Japan (JWCTU), who lodged a complaint after several Colombian women escaped and identified the same Japanese man as their broker. The women described being taken to strip clubs and raped in front of customers, and accused the broker of brutally beating them if they tried to resist his instructions. Staff at the shelter where the women stayed after their escape collected testimonies of forced prostitution, trafficking in persons, and assault and battery, and presented this evidence to the Japanese authorities with the support of the Colombian Embassy. Nonetheless, when the police finally arrested the man, they charged him only with employing illegal aliens. (477)

In another example recounted by the women's shelter director, the police helped to rescue several Thai girls who had been brought to Japan through adoption procedures and then forced to sell sex, but no steps were taken against those responsible:

We just got a girl here who was one of five fifteen-year-old Thai girls brought from the same village in Thailand this January [1999] as adopted daughters. Their families in Thailand sold them to different Japanese "families," who forced them to work as prostitutes. A customer tipped off the police, and the police helped to get the girls out and they've returned to Thailand. The one who came to help had been sold to the Japanese man by her grandmother. There have not been any charges filed against the agents or families. The police are not investigating and the girls are too afraid to push for prosecution. The scariest part is that when the girls were first brought here the adoption process was not complete, and if it is completed now they could still be brought back. (478)

The director said that in her experience, reporting abusive labor conditions to the police can even backfire on the women involved: "Sometimes the police will go to the club and arrest the women there for immigration violations. And we say no, we wanted you to arrest the boss, not the women. And occasionally they will arrest a small boss and be so proud of themselves." (479)

Human Rights Watch also spoke to Japanese lawyers who have devoted considerable resources to assisting migrant women in negotiating the Japanese legal system and seeking compensation for abuses. Attorney Yukiko Oshima, who has been working on migrant women's cases since the early 1980s, explained that in most cases she simply negotiates with bosses herself in her efforts to secure some compensation for women who have been held in debt bondage: "Cases usually do not go to court because the boss does not want trouble. Petitions signed by many people can also help to force snack bar owners to pay. . . . I do not bring many cases to the attention of the police because they will not do anything." In one case in which a woman had been assaulted, however, Oshima did go to the police. "I reported the case to the police and upon investigation, the police found that the batterer was a Yakuza member. The police questioned the woman about guns and drugs only. They interrogated her all day and gave her just one small sweet bun to eat. They were not interested in forced prostitution at all." (480) Another attorney, Yoko Yoshida, affirmed that police are reluctant to investigate allegations of abuse suffered by migrant women and explained that in her experience, this problem has been compounded by immigration officials' refusal to grant stays of deportation to migrant women who wish to participate in prosecutions. (481)

Reports in the Japanese press also indicate that even when police investigations reveal egregious slavery-like abuses, including the buying and selling of women and forced sex work, only immigration-related charges are filed. For example, in January 2000, police in Chiba prefecture arrested a Japanese man who, according to their reports, recruited a 20-year-old Thai woman and sold her to a pimp for 2.2 million yen (approximately US$21,000 at January 2000 exchange rates). Police explained that this man lived in Bangkok, where he and his co-conspirators recruited women for work in Japan, receiving about 2 million yen for each woman they sent. These women were then sold to bars and other establishments in Japan for 4 million yen each. Despite the nature of these practices, the man was arrested only on charges of promoting illegal migrant labor in violation of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. (482)

Laws and policies that exacerbate trafficking victims' vulnerability to abuse

The indifference of Japanese officials is reflected in -- and compounded by -- laws and policies that exacerbate trafficked women's vulnerability to abuse in the snack bars. Rather than providing women with an incentive to turn to authorities and report the violations they have suffered, Japanese policies and practices have targeted them as illegal aliens, excluded them from crucial labor protections, and denied them access to critical government services such as shelter and subsidized medical care. 

Targeted and mistreated as "illegal aliens" and "prostitutes"

Japanese immigration policies are designed to eliminate illegal migration. No provisions are included in the Immigration Control Act to address the coercive and abusive tactics often employed by those who facilitate illegal migration and/or employ illegal migrants; the penalties prescribed for facilitating illegal migration and employment are of approximately the same severity as those for being an "illegal alien." A foreigner may be punished with to up to three years' imprisonment and/or a 300,000 yen fine for the crimes of illegal entry, overstaying one's visa, and -- as of February 18, 2000 -- an unlawful stay in Japan. The new crime of "unlawful stay" was created to counter the effects of the three year statute of limitations on immigration violations. Previously, while persons who entered Japan legally and then overstayed their visas were always liable for imprisonment and fines (as "overstaying" is an on-going crime), those who entered the country illegally could only be subjected to such penalties during the first three years after their entry (after three years had elapsed, such persons could still be deported with a temporary reentry ban, but they were not liable for imprisonment or fines). Establishing "unlawful stay" as an on-going crime eliminates this distinction.

In practice, when foreigners are arrested solely for violations of the Immigration Control Act, jail terms and fines are typically waived or suspended, but this relies on officials' discretion. No effort is made to identify victims of trafficking, who should be exempt from punitive treatment for immigration violations (though repatriation may be appropriate). (483) As described in the preceding chapter, women who are picked up in raids are forced to remain in immigration detention until they can prepare the documentation and funds to return home, even when their alleged immigration violations were a result of the coercive and deceptive actions of their traffickers and employers. Then, they are deported as illegal aliens with punitive reentry bans, even when they have escaped from debt bondage and voluntarily surrendered to authorities. In sum, while trafficking abuses go largely unpunished, trafficking victims are subjected to punitive procedures that entirely fail to recognize or address the abuses they have faced. 

This injustice is compounded by the anti-immigrant bias which is evident in both the writing and enforcement of the Immigration Control Act, with negative implications for all undocumented foreigners in Japan, including women victims of trafficking and debt bondage. The law discourages undocumented migrants from seeking assistance from government agencies or medical facilities by requiring civil servants to report to the immigration authorities any foreigner they know to be living in Japan illegally. (484) It facilitates prolonged and arbitrary detention of undocumented migrants through provisions allowing immigration officials to detain such persons indefinitely pending deportation. (485) It criminalizes the failure to carry one's passport at all times, without providing any penalty for passport confiscation. (486) And, though the law contains provisions for punishing persons involved in the transport, job placement, and employment of illegal migrants, enforcement has focused disproportionately on the arrest, detention and deportation of undocumented migrants, rather than on those who exploit them. (487)

In the period just after the 1990 revisions were enacted, the immigration law was only weakly enforced. With Japan's economic boom and labor shortage, relatively few foreigners were arrested and deported. But as the Japanese economy slid into a recession in 1992, concern about illegal immigration mounted. In early 1993, a Workshop on Counterplans Against Illegal Workers was established by the National Police Agency, the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labor, and the Management and Coordination Agency. (488) Immigration officials, in cooperation with the police, began to enforce laws against illegal migrants more vigorously, and, while fines and jail terms were still rarely enforced, arrests and deportations for immigration violations rose dramatically. Deportations nearly doubled in 1992, rising from 36,275 in 1991 to 66,892 in 1992, and then rose again to 69,136 in 1993. (489) These figures include 8,088 Thai nationals deported in 1992, and a record 13,283 Thais deported in 1993. (490) Since 1993, the number of deportations, like the number of estimated overstayers, has gradually decreased. In 1996, 52,550 persons were deported, more than 99.8 percent of them for violations of the Immigration Control Act. (491) At the same time, visa application procedures have been tightened in an effort to screen out applicants deemed likely to overstay their visas. Since Thai nationals account for a significant percentage of "overstayers" in Japan, Thai women have been particularly affected by these efforts. (492)

The government also launched a mass media campaign criticizing foreigners and conducted high-profile mass arrests of foreigners in public places like parks. (493) During these raids, all foreigners who could not produce proper identification were detained and subjected to long interrogation sessions. Those found in violation of immigration regulations were sent to detention centers to begin deportation procedures. (494) The Ministry of Justice further contributed to the stigmatization of foreigners by publishing misleading statistics that portrayed migrant workers as increasingly criminally-inclined, despite the fact that the "crime" in question is typically not murder or theft, but simply residing illegally in Japan. (495)

Women working in the entertainment industry, including women working as hostesses in baishun snack bars, (496) have been specifically targeted by immigration crackdown efforts. In 1994, for example, the Immigration Bureau carried out a crackdown on illegal immigrants in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya that concentrated on persons involved in prostitution and persons with forged passports or visas. (497) The campaign involved large-scale arrests without warrants and interrogations of foreigners, and included a well-publicized initiative in the Kabuki-cho district of Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo, an entertainment district in which a large number of foreign women are employed. This initiative was carried out under the auspices of the "Environmental Clean-Up Policy Headquarters," which had recently been established in the Shinjuku Police Headquarters. (498) In July of that year alone, these efforts led to the deportation of 2,686 foreigners, 520 of whom were Thai nationals. (499) Such crackdown efforts have continued. In May 2000, for example, immigration authorities carried out two sweeps of a total of twelve bars and nightclubs in Tokyo's Kabuki-cho district. According to officials, the first sweep, on May 16, was Japan's largest capture of illegal aliens in a single search: it resulted in the detention of 149 illegal aliens working in eight different bars. In all, 177 people who had either entered Japan illegally or overstayed their visas were taken into custody, and the majority of those detained were women working as hostesses. Immigration officials explained that while deportation procedures for the detained women were already underway, the firms who employed these women were unlikely to face criminal charges. "Since the intent of the search was to cleanse the environment of the area, it probably won't come to that (i.e., to charges against employers)," a Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau official was quoted as saying. (500)

Foreign women have also been targeted in the enforcement of the Prostitution Prevention Law. Since at least the mid-1990s, most of the approximately one thousand arrests under the PPL for solicitation each year have been of foreign women. And women from Thailand have been particularly affected, accounting for approximately half of the foreign women arrested under the Prostitution Prevention Law each year. (501) Once convicted of prostitution, women are deported with virtually no chance of ever being issued a visa to reenter Japan. (502)

In August 1999, the Diet adopted further revisions to the Immigration Control Act at the urging of the Immigration Bureau. These have worrisome implications for women from Thailand who are resident in Japan, though it is too early as yet to assess their effect in practice. The revisions, which took effect on February 18, 2000, establish "unlawful stay" as a crime and lengthen the ban on reentry after deportation from one year to five years. (503) As explained above, the crime of "unlawful stay" essentially eliminates the three-year statute of limitations on the crime of illegal entry, making all undocumented migrants in Japan permanently liable for imprisonment and fines. Migrants and their advocates fear that the decision to enact this new provision signals the government's intention to seek jail terms and fines for immigration offenses more frequently; currently, such penalties are typically waived or suspended.

The extended ban on reentry means that a person who is deported from Japan for any reason will have to wait at least five years before even applying for a visa to reenter the country. Our research indicated that among women from Thailand, the reentry ban primarily affected those who wished to settle legally in Japan with Japanese husbands. These women often surrendered to immigration authorities, were deported to Thailand, and then applied for a legal visa to reenter Japan after one year, with a letter from their prospective husband. A five year reentry ban could therefore result in longer separations of families (which often include children). 

These revisions prompted immediate criticism from migrant support groups in Japan when they were proposed by the Ministry of Justice in late 1998. The National Network in Solidarity with Migrant Workers/Japan (NNSMW) issued a strong statement alleging that the revisions infringed on "the right of families to remain together by extending the waiting period for reentry following forcible repatriation," and disregarded the "acquired rights of residence" which migrants accrue through living normal, productive, and law-abiding lives in Japan. (504) Migrants' advocates also pointed out that these revisions demonstrated an increasing intolerance towards undocumented migrants. Toru Takahashi, a member of the Immigration Review Task Force of Japan, noted that lengthening the ban on reentry after deportation "doesn't make sense, because even now it is up to the Ministry of Justice to decide whether someone can reenter after that one year, and in reality it is usually very difficult and takes much longer than a year anyway." (505)

On the other hand, at the time that this report was being prepared in early 2000, there were also some indications that the Ministry of Justice's attitude towards undocumented immigrants was softening. In February 2000, for example, four Iranian families -- a total of sixteen people -- who had overstayed their visas were granted special permission to reside in Japan. Their petitions for residency had been submitted to the ministry with the support of the Asian People's Friendship Society, a Tokyo-based NGO that was established in 1989 to provide assistance to foreigners on a wide range of issues, including labor rights and marriage. The Ministry of Justice's decision reportedly took into account the fact that children in these families had grown up in Japan and would have difficultly adjusting to life in Iran. (506) Taking such a consideration into account was a welcome departure from usual practice. Human Rights Watch hopes that the ministry will work towards the systematic incorporation of concerns regarding foreigners' welfare and wellbeing in the design and implementation of immigration policy in the future.

Excluded from Labor Protections

Japan's labor laws could provide an important source of protection from -- and compensation for -- the abuses associated with trafficking and debt bondage. However, Human Rights Watch found that women victims of trafficking and debt bondage in the Japanese sex industry were denied access to these protections as a result of their immigration status and occupation. 

Lack of labor rights protections for undocumented immigrants The protections established under the Labor Standards Law (LSL) apply regardless of workers' immigration status. (507) The LSL makes no distinction on the basis of immigration status and official orders -- or tsutatsu (508) -- issued by the Labor Standards Bureau to its staff in 1988 and 1990 explicitly instructed officials to deal strictly with violations of the labor standards laws even in cases involving "illegal" foreign workers. But these same orders also instructed officials to report illegal workers to immigration authorities, a requirement that must obviously discourage undocumented migrants from seeking their assistance. (509) In 1991, the Compensation Division of the Labor Standards Bureau issued a tsutatsu instructing its staff not to inform the immigration authorities when illegals ask for assistance before the worker receives compensation, although it did not say what should be done after any such compensation had been obtained. (510) Then in 1993, the Labor Minister announced that labor officials should give higher priority to reducing labor violations than to reporting immigration violations. This position was later confirmed by the Minister of Justice, who was asked by the Japanese Diet to comment on the potentially conflicting duties arising out of the immigration reporting requirement. The Minister issued a general statement providing that, if the reporting requirement might interfere with a government official's primary job, the official may prioritize his or her primary job. This was an important step forward with implications for a variety of government officials, including those in the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Health, apparently allowing them to ignore the immigration reporting requirement in certain circumstances without fear of recrimination. 

Lack of labor rights protections in the sex industry

The labor rights of trafficked women in the sex industry are also unclear because of the nature of the work. Protections in the Labor Standards Law are limited to employees of specified industries, namely "hotels, restaurants, snack bars, allied trades and recreation hall enterprises." (511) Although this would appear to cover hostesses in snack bars, the law was written before such businesses were defined and categorized by the Entertainment Businesses Law, and the meaning of "snack bar" for the purposes of the law is not clear. (512) In addition, the LSL applies only when a worker "is employed in the abovementioned enterprises or offices . . . and receives wages therefrom." (513) Snack bar owners and managers often describe hostesses as "freelance" workers, rather than "employees" of the snack bar, thus circumventing the responsibilities that go with being an "employer" under the law even though, in practice, they maintain high levels of control over the terms and conditions of the women's work on a consistent basis.

In addition, the very illegality of businesses of "prostitution" makes it unclear whether they fall within the scope of any labor laws. The law provides penalties for women engaged in public solicitation, and while there are no penalties provided for the act of exchanging sexual intercourse for compensation, it is also prohibited under the law. Moreover, the illegal status of "prostitution" stigmatizes all women in the industry as persons in need of "guidance" and "resocialization." (514) It has thus reinforced a climate in which women working in the sex entertainment industry -- both legally and illegally -- try to hide their occupation, thus reducing these women's access to employment-related government benefits, including the services of labor protection offices. (515) And the Prostitution Prevention Law does not provide any provisions for wage or other compensation when prostitutes' labor rights are violated. As noted above, even the punishments for coercive labor practices under the PPL are substantially less than those imposed for such practices under LSL. 

Denial of access to critical public services, such as subsidized health care

The Japanese government not only fails to offer services specifically designed to provide redress to women victims of trafficking and debt bondage, it explicitly denies such women access to basic public services on the basis of their undocumented immigration status. One clear example is the blanket exclusion of undocumented women from public women's shelters. (516) Another example that has drawn enormous criticism from advocates in Japan is the discriminatory treatment of migrants in Japanese health care policies. These policies are described at some length below, as access to health care is repeatedly cited as a key concern by both women victims of trafficking and by representatives of local NGOs who work with these women.

Trafficked women, like many other foreigners in Japan, face a variety of problems in obtaining adequate access to health care. These obstacles include language barriers -- very few medical facilities offer interpreters -- and a lack of information about available services. Women held in debt bondage face additional problems stemming from their lack of wages and the strict control that employers exercise over their freedom of movement. They must rely on their mamas to bring them to the doctor, provide them with funds to pay for their visit and any necessary medication, and accurately share the doctor's assessment, while respecting their confidentiality. 

Rather than assist women in overcoming these obstacles, the Japanese government has exacerbated these problems with health care policies that discriminate against trafficked women on the basis of their immigration status. Japan has taken significant steps over the last several decades to ensure the highest attainable standard of health for its citizens. However, as a member of the Japanese delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Committee made clear during the discussion of Japan's Fourth Periodic Report on compliance with the ICCPR, immigration control considerations have been given priority over health when it comes to migrant populations:

With respect to medical assistance for illegal aliens: the national medical insurance and other medical insurances and medical aid within public assistance, these would not be applied to illegal foreigners residing in Japan. If these systems are applied to illegal aliens, there is the potential of encouraging illegal sojourn or illegal residence in Japan, and we do not think this is favorable. (517)

These policies contravene Japan's obligations as a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Under the ICESCR, Japan is obligated to "recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health" and to take the steps necessary "for the creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness." (518) The covenant expressly forbids discrimination of any kind in the provision of these rights, including discrimination against non-nationals. 

Discrimination in access to emergency health care

The most dramatic example of Japan's discriminatory policies is the 1990 decision by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to limit "livelihood protection" to Japanese citizens and permanent residents. The Japanese health care system is based on the principle of universal health insurance coverage, (519) but a final safety net is provided by the Livelihood Protection Law which, among other things, reimburses hospitals for the cost of emergency medical care when patients are unable to pay their bills. This funding is provided regardless of employment or residency status and is designed as a final measure to ensure the safeguarding of individuals' life and health. (520) Undocumented and short term migrants are excluded from Japan's national health insurance schemes on the rationale that admitting undocumented migrant workers into the system would encourage illegal stays in the country. (521) But for more than forty years, the livelihood protection system had been available to all persons, regardless of immigration status. In 1990, despite the pleas of advocates and various local authorities, such protection was removed by administrative order. (522) This order removed resources previously available for the emergency health care of undocumented (and legal, non-permanent) foreigners, directly contravening Japan's obligation under ICESCR to work towards the progressive realization of the rights enshrined in the convention. (524)

Doctors and hospitals still have an obligation to accept all persons in need of emergency medical care, but by deciding that it would no longer reimburse unpaid bills for foreigners (with the exception of permanent residents), the government has deterred medical professionals from meeting this obligation when the patients are foreigners. (525) In a few prefectures, the effects of this policy have been mitigated by local government decisions to reimburse hospitals when foreigners fail to pay their medical bills. (526) But in other prefectures, local governments have refused to carry such expenses. Dr. Takashi Sawada, a doctor at the Minatomachi Medical Clinic, which serves foreign patients, told us that "in Tokyo and Kanagawa prefectures, where they have this [reimbursement] system, it is much better than in Chiba and Ibaraki, where they don't and acceptance of uninsured migrants is low." (527)

Denial of subsidized treatment for HIV/AIDS

Trafficked women are also denied access to government subsidies for HIV/AIDS treatment -- which are available to all Japanese citizens and long-term legal residents in Japan -- on the basis of their immigration status. (528) This policy stands in contravention to the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which noted that trafficked women are particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and should be guaranteed access to HIV/AIDS-related services without discrimination. In 1999, CEDAW stated that "issues of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted disease are central to the rights of women and adolescent girls to sexual health" and, specifically, recommended that all states "should ensure, without prejudice and discrimination, the right to sexual health information, education and services for all women and girls, including those who have been trafficked, even if they are not legally resident in the country." (529) CEDAW went on to explain:

While biological differences between women and men may lead to differences in health status, there are societal factors which are determinative of the health status of women and men which can vary among women themselves. For that reason, special attention should be given to the health needs and rights of women belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as migrant women, refugee and internally displaced women, the girl child and older women, women in prostitution, indigenous women and women with physical or mental disabilities. (530)

The particular vulnerability of female trafficking victims and other foreign women to HIV/AIDS in Japan was confirmed by Japan's National AIDS Surveillance Committee. This found that from 1985 through 1997, non-Japanese females accounted for thirty-four percent of all HIV cases and eight percent of all AIDS cases and non-Japanese males accounted for fourteen percent of HIV cases and twenty percent of AIDS cases. While "non-Japanese" may include foreigners whose residency status qualifies them for coverage under the Welfare for Disabled People Act, the National AIDS Surveillance Committee notes that "the peak of HIV cases seen in 1992 was due to non-Japanese females, mainly young women from Southeast Asia." (531) Given Japanese immigration policies, it is unlikely that many, if any, of them qualified for state-funded HIV/AIDS treatment. And given the research conducted by Human Rights Watch and other organizations, it is very likely that many of these women were victims of trafficking from Thailand and other countries. The proportion of non-Japanese among the overall number of HIV/AIDS sufferers is much higher in areas that receive large numbers of migrant women from Thailand. One study found, for example, that more than ninety percent of all non-hemophiliac cases of HIV and AIDS in Nagano and Ibaraki prefectures involved foreign migrants, with most of those infected coming from Thailand and other Asian countries, and no less than ninety-nine percent of them illegally overstaying their visas. (532) In accordance with CEDAW's recommendations, the government should take urgent steps to ensure that trafficked women who are infected with HIV/AIDS are provided with all appropriate medical care and treatement on the same basis as others.

Discrimination in access to reproductive health care

Japanese health care policies regarding maternal and child health also discriminate against undocumented migrants in contravention of the reproductive health guarantees in the Women's Convention. (533) Under the 1965 Maternal and Child Health Law, the government provides pre-natal and post-natal medical care, including check-ups during pregnancy, check-ups for infants, and vaccinations for children free of charge to all women who register their pregnancies. Upon registration, women receive a maternal and child health care handbook and coupons for the free services. But while the handbook is available to everyone, the free vaccinations and free check-ups for pregnant women, new mothers, and infants are available only to legal residents in Japan. Undocumented women -- and their children -- are not covered. According to Dr. Sawada, in a few prefectures, public health professionals may have bypassed this regulation by not asking about women's immigration status, but this is unusual. (534) Discriminatory maternal and child health policies inevitably increase the health risks facing undocumented migrant women and their children, despite their being a particularly vulnerable group. This was evidenced in a survey published in October 1999 by an associate professor of nursing at the Tokyo Women's Medical College, which found that the rate of stillborn births among Thai women in Tokyo in 1997 was more than double (2.1 times higher) that of Japanese women. Moreover, babies born to Thai mothers were 2.5 times more likely to die before their first birthday than those born to Japanese mothers. (535)

Immigration reporting requirement

In practice, undocumented migrants are deterred from seeking medical care because of the fear that any attempt to use government health services could lead directly to their deportation. According to Japan's Immigration Control Act, employees of government health clinics and public hospitals, like all other civil servants, are required to report those they suspect of being illegal immigrants to the immigration authorities. The Minister of Justice's statement authorizing civil servants to give higher priority to their primary functions than to the immigration reporting requirement may mean that doctors can ignore that requirement, but the Immigration Control Act has not been modified to reflect this statement, and actual government policy is ambiguous. Hospitals have also used the immigration reporting requirement to discourage foreigners from seeking their services. In 1998, for example, a hospital at the Tokyo Women's Medical University was criticized for displaying a sign in its outpatient ward stating, "This Medical Hospital is Obligated to Report to the Immigration Office." The statement, in English on the assumption that foreigners would be more likely to understand English than Japanese, was falsely attributed to the "Japanese Immigration Control Office" -- an office that does not, in fact, exist. The sign was removed, however, after vigorous complaints by activists. (536)

Even though medical professionals may, in practice, avoid reporting undocumented migrants, the fear that they might be reported deters some migrants from seeking necessary medical care. By retaining the requirement to report undocumented immigrants in the Immigration Control Act, even if it is not currently being enforced, the government inevitably exacerbates this concern among migrants. This was shown in a study of undocumented workers from the Philippines in the mid-1990's, which found that there were no recorded incidents of hospitals turning in patients to immigration authorities, yet "this fear [was] prevalent" among the migrants. (537) Dr. Irohira Tetsuro of the Saku General Hospital in Nagano Prefecture told Human Rights Watch that this fear is common among undocumented women from Thailand, who are reluctant to attend the hospital for treatment because they fear they might be deported. (538)

Assistance provided by local advocates and private service providers

A growing lobby of Japanese NGOs and advocates is pushing for recognition of the plight of women victims of trafficking in Japan and for assistance for such women through the establishment of shelters, the provision of medical care, and the provision of legal services. Their efforts, Human Rights Watch found, have contributed significantly to mitigating some of the negative effects of Japanese policies, but can be only of limited effect while those policies remain flawed. Private organizations are typically under-funded and can provide only limited services, in limited areas of Japan. While Human Rights Watch commends their efforts, it is still the Japanese government which has the responsibility under international law for protecting the human rights of trafficked persons and remedying the abuses they have faced. 

Private organizations provide shelter, health care, and other services

Certain Japanese nongovernmental organizations have done a lot to help foreign women victims of trafficking, forced labor, and other abuses. Various privately-run women's shelters, for example, offer their services to all foreign women, regardless of their immigration status, and several of the victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch had benefited from this, often having been referred there by Japanese or Thai government officials. At such shelters, women are not only accommodated, but can receive counseling, legal assistance, easier access to medical care, and help in arranging safe travel back to their country of origin.

Some private organizations are also offering low cost or free health care to the foreign community, with guarantees that undocumented foreigners will not be reported to immigration authorities. For example, in 1991, the Minatomachi Foreign Migrant Workers' Mutual Aid Scheme for Health (MF-MASH) was created to offer undocumented migrants access to a health insurance policy providing premiums and benefits similar to that of the government's National Health Insurance Scheme. Members, who pay 2000 yen (in 1999, approximately US$17) per month, then qualify to receive medical care at the Minatomachi Medical Center in Yokohama city for thirty percent of the full cost of such treatment. This program has provided subsidized medical care for thousands of foreign patients. (539)

Volunteer advocates have provided some victims with a measure of redress

The committed efforts of Japanese advocates have also provided a few trafficked women with a small degree of redress, but the experiences these advocates describe indicate that police and immigration officials tend to impede their efforts, rather than facilitating them. In one case, three women trafficked from Thailand successfully sued their employers at a snack bar under Japanese labor laws. But the circumstances that made their success possible were extraordinary. These three plaintiffs were the women from the "Shimodate Incident," who were being detained in Japan on murder charges, so they had not been deported. The snack bar owners revealed incriminating evidence against themselves while testifying in the murder trial, and the women's team of volunteer defense lawyers seized upon the owners' testimony and initiated a civil case against them for labor violations. The snack bar owners had testified that they had paid 3000 yen (US$20) per hour in wages for the three women and that the money had been given to the mama-san to distribute. (540) As one of the owners explained in his statement to the police at the Shimodate Police Station, "[t]he bar is open around 7 p.m. to midnight. Hourly pay is 1,000 yen [approximately US$7 at 1991 exchange rates], and I paid it everyday, but I paid the salaries for [the three defendants] to [their mama-san]." (541) So the defense lawyers filed a civil suit claiming compensation for unpaid wages; according to the Labor Standards Law, wages must be paid directly to the workers. (542) The case was successful. In 1995, the women were awarded back wages, at the rate of 1000 yen (approximately US$10) per hour each, in addition to compensation for emotional distress. In all, the owners were ordered to pay more than 12 million yen (US$127,000), 3,242,000 yen each to two of the women and 5,715,000 to the third. (543)

In another ground-breaking case, a Thai woman successfully pressed criminal charges against a snack bar owner for forcing her into sex work and against a client for sexually assaulting her by inserting a whiskey bottle into her vagina. She and the other women working at the snack bar had been forced to work twelve hours a day in addition to providing sexual services to at least three men every night, but they received only 5,000 yen (US$45) per client out of the 15,000 to 20,000 yen (US$135 to 180) clients paid their boss. During a police raid of the snack bar in November 1993, the owner was arrested by police for violating labor laws concerning wage remuneration, and a Thai woman worker was arrested for immigration violations. The Japanese NGO OASIS quickly came to her assistance and convinced her to press charges against the owner of the bar and against the client who had assaulted her. Human Rights Watch was unable to find out the nature of the charges for which the owner and client were prosecuted, but we did learn that both defendants were convicted. In December 1993, the snack bar owner was ordered to pay compensation of 850,000 yen (US$7,700), and the client was ordered to pay another 700,000 yen (US$6,300); neither defendant was imprisoned. Unfortunately, OASIS reported that the Thai woman did not collect any of the money that was awarded to her; she returned to Thailand before the case was completed and as of January 1994, OASIS was unable to find her. (544)

There have been a few other cases as well in which Japanese activists have realized limited success in pursuing legal claims for trafficked women. An OASIS staff member told Human Rights Watch about a case in which a snack bar owner was actually sentenced to jail time after a Thai woman who had been working in debt bondage for two years pressed charges under Japan's labor laws and the Prostitution Prevention Law: "In October 1992, the police raided a snack bar and arrested seven women as illegal aliens. OASIS encouraged each woman to press charges, but only one, Keak, agreed. So, Keak signed the papers and gave permission to the OASIS lawyer to press charges against the owner and broker. The lawyer fought for 150 bai [US$12,000] and won 95 bai [US$7500]. The broker had to pay 65 bai [US$5100] and the owner 30 bai [US$2400]. In addition, the owner was jailed for two years." (545) In another case that year, a support group was formed on behalf of five Thai women charged with murdering their Singaporean mama-san in Mobara city, Chiba prefecture in 1992. The women explained that they had been held against their will, watched twenty-four hours a day by video camera, and forced to perform sexual services for customers to repay debts of 3.8 million yen (US$30,000) each. So the support group filed charges against the mama-san's partner for illegal confinement under the Penal Code and for violations of the Prostitution Prevention Law. The man was convicted, but received only a 25,000 yen fine. (546)

These cases provide important precedents for future efforts to obtain justice for trafficking and related abuses. However, Human Rights Watch found that the limited success these women enjoyed was possible only with the vigorous assistance of Japanese advocates, who encouraged the women to press charges, helped them throughout their trials, and publicized their cases to gain public support. These advocates received no payment for their efforts, faced reluctant and biased civil servants at every stage of the process, had to pursue the cases over long periods of time, and in some cases, had to represent victims in absentia, as they were deported while the trial was still underway. In sum, the extraordinary circumstances of these cases -- and the enormous amount of effort required on the part of advocates -- provide only further evidence of the Japanese government's indifference to the human rights violations suffered by trafficked women.


423.  Human Rights Committee, "Concluding Observations by the Human Rights Committee: Consideration of Reports Submitted by States under Article 40 of the Covenant, Japan," November 5, 1998, paragraph 29.

424. Transcript of the 1714th meeting of the Committee on Human Rights to consider the Fourth Periodic Report of Japan, October 28, 1998.

425. Entertainment Businesses Law, Article 18-2, paragraph 1 provides that a person who runs an entertainment business shall not:"(1) charge an unreasonably high debt . . . to the employees engaged in the service of entertaining the customers (hereinafter called the "employees entertaining the customers") in consideration of their ability to repay on condition that the outstanding debt becomes due and payable immediately upon their ceasing to be the employees entertaining the customers. (2) hold in custody or to have a third party hold in custody the passports . . . (or other documents designated by a government order as the documents which employers would normally request the job seekers to display for their identification) of the employees entertaining the customers who have been charged with an unreasonably high debt in consideration of their ability to repay." Article 31-3 specifies that this article should apply to persons who run "non-store type sex entertainment businesses." See discussion of the Entertainment Businesses Law below for a definition of this term. (Note that the English translation of the amended Entertainment Businesses Law used here and below was provided to Human Rights Watch by Fumie Saito, Legislative Aide to Senator Mizuho Fukushima, Member of the House of Councilors, Japan.)

426. Fumie Saito, Legislative Aide to Senator Mizuho Fukushima, Member of the House of Councilors, Japan, e-mail to Human Rights Watch, March 16, 2000.

427. Sanitsuda Ekachai, "Conference seeks help for Thai victims: These women are not criminals-envoy," Bangkok Post, September 28, 1999; "Govt, NGO officials meet on Thai women's problems," The Daily Yomiuri, September 28, 1999.

428. These efforts will be described further in the "International Response" chapter.

429. According to Kanemoto, 1,360 "stowaways" were arrested for illegal entry in 1997, 1,023 in 1998, and 770 in 1999. He also explained that in 1998, 1,522 foreign women were arrested for violations of the Prostitution Prevention Law, of the laws against indecency, or of the Entertainment Businesses Law. Broken down by nationality, the foreign women who were arrested on such charges included 497 Koreans, 342 Thais, 277 Filipinas, and 122 Colombians. The only other arrest statistic he cited was the number of persons arrested for child prostitution or child pornography in the two months since Japan's new legislation against these practices came into force in November 1999, but it was not clear whether any foreign victims were involved in these cases. (Presentation at the Asia-Pacific Symposium on Trafficking in Persons, Tokyo, Japan, January 20, 2000.)

430. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999.

431. Also note that victims can get compensation in both civil and criminal cases in Japan. While victims must initiate a civil case to actually sue for damages, judges and lawyers in criminal cases regularly encourage the defendant to offer some compensation to the victim as an indication of remorse. The amount of compensation is then one of the considerations that judges take into account during sentencing. Judges will even extend trials in certain cases until the defendant is able to pay more money. Though there is no provision for this practice in the criminal procedure code, attorney Yoko Yoshida explained that it is common and is implied by the wide range of fines and prison terms specified in the penal code, which give judges broad discretion in sentencing. (Human Rights Watch interview, Kyoto, Japan, April 13, 1999.)

432. "The Penal Code of Japan," EHS Law Bulletin Series, EHS Vol. II (Tokyo: Eibun-Horeisha, Inc., 1992). All excerpts from the Penal Code below are also taken from the EHS Law Bulletin Series.

433. 0 Article 223, Law No. 124, June 30, 1947.

434. Article 226 of the Penal Code states: "A person, who kidnaps another by force or allurement for the purpose of transporting the same out of Japan, shall be punished with penal servitude for a limited period of not less than two years [and not more than fifteen years].

The same shall apply to a person who buys or sells another for the purpose of transporting the same out of Japan, and to a person who transports out of Japan another having been so kidnaped or sold."

435. 0 Articles 204 through 208 of the Penal Code, which were last amended by Law No. 31, April 17, 1991.

436. According to Article 177, rape carries a penalty of imprisonment for a limited period of no less than two years, and Article 12 of penal code provides that "a limited period" shall mean no less than one month, but less than 15 years. Sexual assault is prohibited under Article 176.

437. 0 Article 235: A person who steals the property of another shall be guilty of the crime of theft and be punished with penal servitude for not more than ten years.

438. "Prostitution Prevention Law," EHS Law Bulletin Series, EHS Vol. II (Tokyo: Eibun-Horeisha, Inc., 1991). All excerpts from the Prostitution Prevention Law below are also taken from the EHS Law Bulletin Series.

439. Under the Child Prostitution and Pornography Act, which was adopted by the Japanese Diet in May 1999, clients who engage in prostitution with girls under age eighteen can be penalized.

440. Article 7(2). This penalty is increased to a maximum of five years imprisonment or a 200,000 yen fine if the offender receives or demands compensation from the act of prostitution (Article 8(1)).

441. Article 7(1). This penalty is increased to a maximum of five years imprisonment or a 200,000 yen fine if the offender receives or demands compensation from the act of prostitution (Article 8(1)).

442. As another point of comparison, the punishments for forced prostitution in the PPL are actually slightly less severe than those in the Immigration Control Act for entering the country illegally or overstaying one's visa.

443. Articles 31-2, 31-3, 18-2.

444. 0 LSL, Article 5. See Chapter XIII, Penal Provisions, Article 117 for penalties.

445. 0 Article 24.

446. 0 Article 17: "The employer may not offset wages against advances of money or advances of other credits made as a condition for work. In other words, may not deduct wages to collect money that is advanced on condition of labor (may not automatically deduct debt from a salary)."

447. Labor Standards Law, Articles 19, 75-77; Enforcement Ordinance.

448. 0 "Labor mobility key to employment," Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 1999.

449. Article 63 of the Act prescribes penalties of one to ten years imprisonment or a fine of fifty thousand to one million yen for: "(1) a person who has carried on or engaged in employment placement, labor recruitment or labor supply by means of violence, intimidation, imprisonment or other restraint on mental or physical freedom; (2) a person who has carried on or engaged in employment placement, labor recruitment or labor supply with an intention of having workers do work injurious to public health or public morals."

450. Article 58. Violating this provision carries penalties of one to ten years penal servitude or a 20,000 to 3 million yen fine.

451. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 14, 1999.

452. Ibid.

453. Article 72-3: "Any person subject to any of the following items shall be punished with penal servitude not more than 3 years or a fine not more than 2 million yen, or shall be punished with both prison and a fine. 

(1) A person who has had an alien engage in illegal work in relation to business activities; 

(2) A person who has placed an alien under his control for the purpose of having the alien engage in illegal work; 

(3) A person who has repeatedly mediated either the procurement of an alien to engage in illegal work or the act specified in the preceding item."

Penalties on the illegal migrants themselves were maintained and somewhat increased: the maximum period of imprisonment remained three years, but maximum fines were increased from 100,000 yen to 300,000 yen (Article 70).In 1998, additional revisions added stiff penalties -- up to ten years imprisonment and a ten million yen fine -- for those involved in transporting "collective stowaways," defined as "aliens in groups who have intention to land onto Japan without obtaining landing permission . . . or with obtaining landing permission . . . by a false representation or other illegal measures" (Articles 74 through 74-8). These provisions were added largely in response to the increasing incidence of smuggling in migrants by boat from China. (Here and below, excerpts taken from the English translation of the law on the Japanese Ministry of Justice website. Available: July 2000.)

454. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999.

455. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 17, 1999.

456. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 17, 1999.

457. number of cases number of people arrested

1994 47 693

1995 326 422

1996 356 452

1997 488 627

1998 499 556

(Human Rights Watch interview with Police Inspector Akio Koshikawa, Consumer and Environmental Protection Division, Community Safety Bureau, National Police Agency, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999.)

458. Ibid.

459. Human Rights Watch interview with a panel of Japanese government officials, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999.

460. Ibid.

461. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 14, 1999.

462. Human Rights Watch interview with Yutaka Matsumoto, Attorney-at-Law, Public Security Division, Criminal Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Justice, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999. 

Immigration attorney Tadanori Onitsuka explained that since mediating in the employment of illegal aliens is now prohibited under the Immigration Control Act, this law would be applied instead. However, though there have been some arrests under this provision, it has not been applied on a consistent basis either. ( Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 17, 1999.) Furthermore, the immigration law does not target the coercive tactics often involved in the job placement, or "sale," of migrant women and provides for maximum prison terms of only three years. This penalty is stiffer than that prescribed under the Employment Security Act for non-coercive job placement activities (which carries a maximum penalty of one year of imprisonment or a 200,000 yen fine), but significantly lighter than that prescribed for coercive employment placement (maximum of ten years of imprisonment or a one million yen fine).

463. The Employment Security Law also covers a range of other issues, such as unemployment insurance and advance warnings for lay-offs.

464. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 14, 1999.

465. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 17, 1999.

466.  Presentation at the Asian Women's Human Rights Conference, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, March 1994.

467. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

468. Human Rights Watch interview, Japan, March 17, 1994.

469. This name has been changed to protect his identity.

470. Chitraporn Vanaspong, "A bad remedy for prostitution," Bangkok Post, August 18, 1996. See the previous chapter for more details about the murder trial.

471. Human Rights Watch interview, Japan, April 2, 1994.

472. Furthermore, there was already extensive evidence that the women worked as prostitutes in the police record from the murder investigation and trial. Still, the police agreed only to file his allegations as a "citizen's complaint."

473. Human Rights Watch interview, Japan, April 2, 1994.

474. Ibid.

475. Ibid.

476. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999. The name of the shelter and the director have been withheld at the director's request.

477. HELP Asian Women's Shelter, Network News, No. 35, May 1999, p. 3.

478. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999.

479. Ibid.

480. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, March 17, 1994.

481. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 17, 1999.

482. "Bangkok resident arrested in recruitment of Thai women," Kyodo News International, January 24, 2000.

In another recent example, the Public Safety Division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and the Nogata and Suginama branch officers announced in August 1999 that they had made fourteen arrests in connection with their investigation of foreign prostitution rings in the Kabuki-cho area of Tokyo. According to police, the suspects included three Thai brokers who were involved in sending women from Thailand to Japan, where they were placed under the brokers' supervision and forced to engage in sex work. During their investigation, the police found two women from northern Thailand who had been locked up in an apartment in Kabuki-cho and forced to pay off debts of 4.5 million yen (US$38,500) each through sex work. An article in the Asahi Shimbun reported, "The women, the police said, were essentially living in captivity under the control of the three brokers, sharing a room and working at night in the bar." The police charged the brokers with employing illegal aliens, in violation of the Immigration Control Act, and with placing workers into harmful and illegal work, in violation of the Employment Security Act. While the latter charge demonstrates some acknowledgment of the abuses the women faced, no charges of forced labor, forced prostitution, intimidation, or illegal confinement were filed. (See "Prostitution ring broken in Shinjuku," Asahi Shimbun (English edition), August 12, 1999; and "3 Thais arrested for arranging prostitution in Japan," Japan Policy & Politics, August 12, 1999. For a more complete description of the charges filed against the brokers, see "Metropolitan Police Arrest 14 People Suspected of Trafficking and Prostituting Thai Women," Asahi Shimbun (Japanese edition), August 12, 1999.) 

For a similar case involving Colombian women, see "The increase in Colombian prostitution," Asahi Shimbun (Japanese edition), June 22, 1999; and "70 held in move to stem prostitution," Asahi Shimbun (English edition), June 17, 1999. See also: "Date club owner arrested in Yokohama," Kanagawa Shimbun (Japanese edition), June 15, 1994; "Prosecution in Yokohama," Kanagawa Shimbun (Japanese edition), November 13, 1993; and "Police Arrest Two Japanese Accused of Trading Women," Yomiuri Shimbun, October 9, 1992.

Ironically, while brokers are virtually never arrested for placing women into abusive and coercive working conditions, a newspaper report from 1998 indicates that on at least one occasion, Japanese police have actually arrested a broker on charges of defrauding a snack bar manager. The "broker," Masashiro Yasuzawa, went to Narita airport with two Thai women who had been living in Japan illegally for a year and a half. There he introduced the women to a snack bar manager, telling the manager that the women had just arrived from Thailand that morning. The manager paid him 3.8 million yen, and took the women back to his snack bar. They began working for the manager that night, but when they went out with customers, they never returned. Instead, they went back to Yasuzawa, who paid them each 500,000 yen. ("Lied about introducing Thai women -- got 3.8 million yen by fraud," Asahi Shimbun (Japanese edition), September 23, 1998.


483. While the Immigration Control Act explicitly excepts persons who qualify as refugees from penalties for the offenses of illegal entry and overstaying visas, no similar exceptions are made for victims of trafficking and forced labor.

484.  According to Article 62(2), "Any official of the government or a local public entity shall inform the immigration authorities if he comes to have knowledge, in the performance of his duties, of an undocumented immigrant." 

As will be discussed below, there have been modifications to this rule in response to concerns from the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Health, and reports indicate that labor official and medical professionals rarely turn undocumented migrants over to immigration officials. Still, the fear of being turned in can prevent migrants from accessing such services, and police commonly report suspected illegal aliens to immigration.

485.  According to Article 52, if a deportee cannot be deported immediately upon the issuance of a written deportation order, "an ICO may detain him in an Immigration Center, detention house, or other places designated by the Minister of Justice or by a SII commissioned by the Minister of Justice until such time as deportation becomes possible." There are no checks or limits on this power.

486. In a highly unusual case in December 1997, a family of ethnic Japanese Brazilians sued their employer for refusing to return their passports when they wanted to return to Brazil following the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. The Kobe District Judge ruled that it was illegal for employers to refuse to return the passports of migrant employees and ordered the defendant to pay 380,000 yen in compensation, in addition to 450,000 yen in unpaid wages, to the plaintiffs. However, the Judge also decided that it was not illegal for an employer to hold passports if requested to do so, despite the fact that Japanese immigration law requires that all foreigners carry their passports at all times. ("Kobe Court Ruling: Refusing to Return a Passport is Illegal," The New Observer (Tokyo, Japan), 1998.)

487. 0 Kiriro Morita and Saskia Sassen, "The New Illegal Immigration in Japan, 1980-1992," International Migration Review, vol. xxviii, no. 1, 1993. As will be discussed below, 1990 revisions to the Immigration Control Act added punishments for recruiting and employing illegal immigrants, but the provisions against the migrants themselves are still more vigorously enforced.

488. 0 "Cracking Down of Foreign Workers; Government Exploits Recession Fears," interview with Kobayashi Kengo, AMPO Japan-Asia Quarterly Review, vol. 25., no. 1, 1994.

489. Ministry of Justice, Japan, "Immigration: Deportation of Foreign Nationals; Illegal Work, Illegal Entry, Narcotics." Available: July 2000.

490. 0 "13,283 Thais deported from Japan last year," Bangkok Post, October 30, 1994.

491. Ministry of Justice, Japan, "Immigration: Deportation of Foreign Nationals; Illegal Work, Illegal Entry, Narcotics." Available: July 2000. These were the most recent statistics available on the Japanese Ministry of Justice website when this report was being prepared.

492. Human Rights Watch interview with Attorney Tadanori Onitsuka, Tokyo, Japan, April 17, 1999. Note that according to Japanese Ministry of Justice statistics, in January 1997, fourteen percent of the 282,986 undocumented migrants in Japan were Thai nationals (Immigration Bureau, Ministry of Justice, "Change in Number of Illegal Stayers by Countries of Origin," March 9, 1997).

493. Human Rights Watch interview with Toru Takahashi, Immigration Review Task Force member, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999.

494. 0 Luke Thomas, "Beating on Foreigners: Victims of the Immigration Gulag," Tokyo Underground, Issue 1, January 1995.

495. The Ministry of Justice's 1994 White Paper included a section entitled "A Rapid Growth of Criminal Offenses Committed by Foreign Visitors." However, a careful reading shows that of all the foreign "criminals," 69.7 percent were prosecuted under the Immigration Control Act (Ministry of Justice, Japan, 1994 White Paper, 1995, p. 243). Similarly, in the Summary of The White Paper on Crime 1998, the discussion of foreign "special law offenders" fails to point out that these laws include the Immigration Control Act, so irregular immigration status is enough to qualify one as an "offender." Also, while the Ministry of Justice admits that the number of foreign penal code offenders fell in 1998, it is quick to point out that this figure is still seven times higher than it was in 1980 (Ministry of Justice, Japan, Summary of The White Paper on Crime 1998. Available: September 1999). For a more detailed analysis of Japanese officials' misleading use of arrest statistics to stigmatize foreigners, see Jens Wilkinson, "Gaijin Crime? A Look Behind the Statistics," Tokyo Observer, issue 22, 1996.

496. Baishun means "prostitution," and "baishun snack bars" are snack bars that involve sexual exchanges.

497. 0 "July raids send 2,700 illegals home," Japan Times, October 9, 1994.

498. 0 Thomas, "Beating on Foreigners . . ." Tokyo Underground, Issue 1.

499.  1,611 men and 1,075 women were deported, and while the largest number of male deportees were from South Korea, the largest number of female deportees were from Thailand (Ibid.).

500. "177 illegal aliens caught in two raids," The Japan Times, May 28, 2000.

501. For overall statistics on arrests under PPL, see Research and Training Institute, Ministry of Justice, Japan, "Summary of the White Paper on Crime 1997." Available: September 1999. 

For statistics of foreign women arrested under PPL, see Human Rights Watch interview with Police Inspector Akio Koshikawa, Consumer and Environmental Protection Division, Community Safety Bureau, National Police Agency, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999. Inspector Koshikawa provided the following statistics on arrests of foreign women under the Prostitution Prevention Law:


1995 850 493 (58%)

1996 593 272 (46%)

1997 830 371 (45%)

502. Human Rights Watch interview with Attorney Tadanori Onitsuka, Tokyo, Japan, April 17, 1999.

503. See Nobuyuki Sato, "Point of View: It's time for Japan to guarantee foreigners' rights," Asahi Shimbun, May 27, 1999; Naoya Wada, Administrative Documentation Lawyer, Wada Legal Administrative & Translation Services, e-mail to Human Rights Watch, November 2, 1999.

504. NNSMW, "Stop! The 1999 Immigration Control Law Revision," Migrant Network News, Issue No. 12, March 1999, p. 3.

505. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999.

506. Hiroshi Matsubara, "Standards needed for granting residence status: rights activist," The Japan Times, February 21, 2000.

507. Article 3 states that "[n]o employer shall discriminate against or for any worker by reason of nationality, creed or social status in wages, working hours and other working conditions." 

In January 1997, Japan's Supreme Court awarded wage compensation to an undocumented migrant worker from Pakistan who was injured while working in Japan. The issue of contention was whether income losses should be estimated based on his income in Japan or on his expected income in Pakistan. Supporting the decision of the Tokyo High Court, the Supreme Court ruled that while estimated losses should not be calculated differently based upon the worker's nationality, "the estimated period of future work in Japan should take into consideration the foreigner's individual situation." The judge said in the ruling that undocumented workers could not work for long in Japan, and therefore decided that his losses should be estimated based on three years of work in Japan (at 170,000 yen per month) and thirty-nine years of work in Pakistan (at 30,000 yen per month). ("Illegal Foreign Worker Awarded Three Year's of Income Lost Because of On-the-Job Accident,"Japan Labor Bulletin, vol. 36, no. 4, April 1, 1997. Available: November 1999.)

508. Tsutatsu are bureaucratic orders that are issued by upper level ministry officials and then strictly followed by the ministry's staff at all levels of the government. The Japan Export Information Center at the U.S. Department of Commerce defines "tsutatsu" as "written administrative guidance given by government officials to related parties/organizations/companies" (Japan Export Information Center, Destination Japan: A Business Guide for the 90s (Second Edition), May 1994. Available: September 1999.)

These orders are considered interpretations of the law, and are often given more weight than the law itself, though in many cases they are not clearly described or disseminated to the public. (See Human Rights Watch interviews with Toru Takahashi, Immigration Review Task Force member, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999; and with Atty. Yoko Yoshida, Kyoto, Japan, April 13, 1999.)

509. 0 The Forum on Asian Immigrant Workers, Citizen's Report on the Human Rights of Foreign Workers in Japan, April 17, 1993, p. 33.

510. Compensation Division Statement no. 7, March 25, 1991. (Akira Hatade, "Labor Movement Regarding Foreign Workers," in Hiroshi Takana and Takashi Ebashi [eds.], Rainichi Gaikokujin Jinken Hakusho [White paper on human rights for foreigners in Japan] (1997), p. 106).

511.  Article 8(14). If the term "allied trades" in Article 8(14) is interpreted to include the business of procuring women for the snack bars, then brokers are within the purview of the law as well.

512. Human Rights Watch interview with a local government labor official, Tokyo, Japan, April 14, 1999.

513. Article 10. Note that Article 11 defines "wage" as "the wage, salary, allowance, bonus and every other payment to the worker from the employer as remuneration of labor under whatever name they may be called."

514. While no longer common in practice, women convicted of violating the PPL may be sentenced to "guidance disposition" in a women's guidance home. Like other correctional institutions, the woman's guidance home is administered by the Ministry of Justice's Correction Bureau, but it is designed to give women "protection and guidance as well as medical treatment necessary for their resocialization." Correction Bureau, Ministry of Justice, Japan, "The Women's Guidance Home." Available: September 1999.

515. Human Rights Watch interview with Momocca Momocco, founder of SWEETLY (Sex Workers! Encourage, Empower, Trust and Love Yourselves!), Kyoto, Japan, April 12, 1999.

516. Note that the effects of this rule may be mitigated in some shelters where staff practice a "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding immigration status.

517. Suginaka, Ministry of Health and Welfare, 1716 meeting of HRC, October 29, 1998

518. Article 12. Ratified by Japan on June 21, 1979.

519. The majority of Japanese citizens, about seventy million, are covered under the Health Insurance Law, which provides health insurance to laborers in a position of regular employment at a fixed place of business. Another forty-two million people are insured under the National Health Insurance system, which applies by law to all residents of Japan who have a specific address in a town, city, or village. These policies include both physical and mental health care needs. (Japan Civil Liberties Union, "1998 Report Concerning the Present Status of Human Rights in Japan (Third Counter Report)", October 1998; "The Japanese National Health Insurance Scheme," MF-MASH News, no. 17, September 1998, p. 5.; Dr. Takashi Sawada, e-mail to Human Rights Watch, October 9, 1999.)

520. Japan Civil Liberties Union, "1998 Report Concerning the Present Status of Human Rights in Japan (Third Counter Report)."

521. While the laws governing these insurance schemes make no distinction based on immigration status, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has issued directives excluding undocumented workers from coverage under either scheme. ("State must supply health care for illegal aliens, panel says," Japan Times, May 27, 1995.)

522.  Japan Civil Liberties Union, "1998 Report Concerning the Present Status of Human Rights in Japan (Third Counter Report)."

Note that emergency psychiatric care is still available to all persons regardless of immigration status under the Mental Health and Welfare Act, which provides free treatment for severe cases in which patients are in danger of harming themselves or others. (523)

523. Dr. Takashi Sawada, e-mails to Human Rights Watch, October 9 and 11, 1999.

524. ICESCR, Article 2(1). According to Article 14(e) of the Maastricht Guidelines on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, (Maastricht, January 22-26, 1997): "Violations of economic, social and cultural rights can occur through the direct action of States or other entities insufficiently regulated by States. Examples of such violations include . . . The adoption of any deliberately retrogressive measure that reduces the extent to which any such right is guaranteed."

525. See Human Rights Watch interview with Nigoon Jitthai, researcher at the Graduate School of Medicine, Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan, April 17, 1999; Hiroshi Hayakawa, "Dr. Haruto takes charge in Yokosuka Chuo Clinic," MF-MASH News, no. 11, June 1995, p. 7; Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Takashi Sawada of the Minatomachi Medical Clinic, Tokyo, Japan, April 7, 1999.

526. In particular, there have been efforts to employ provisions of a law originally designed to protect domestic (Japanese) travelers and persons without money or a residence, under which hospitals are reimbursed for outstanding medical bills by local governments. Since the Ministry of Health and Welfare's 1990 decision to withhold livelihood protection from foreigners without permanent residency, this law has been used in some areas to cover undocumented migrants.

527. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 7, 1999.

528. Government-subsidized HIV/AIDS treatment is provided under the Welfare Act for Disabled People, and only citizens and foreigners with at least a one-year work visa are covered. (Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Takashi Sawada, Tokyo, Japan, April 7, 1999.)

Rutsuko Shoji, Director of HELP Asian Women's Shelter, told Human Rights Watch how Japan's discriminatory policy regarding HIV/AIDS treatment was reducing one woman's chance of returning to Thailand before she dies. The woman was a third generation Vietnamese "refugee" who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Thailand and trafficked into Japan at age sixteen. HELP and others were trying to persuade the Thai government to allow her to return to Thailand, but in the meantime, she remained in Japan, where she was being denied access to medication that could prolong her life.(Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999.).

529. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, "General Recommendation No. 24," 20th session, 1999, paragraph 18.

530. Ibid., paragraph 6.

531. National Institute of Infectious Diseases, "AIDS/HIV Surveillance in Japan, 1985-1997," Infectious Agents Surveillance Report, vol. 19, no. 4 (no. 218). Available: September 1999.

532. Kijo Deura and Takashi Yokota, "Medical Care and HIV Infection of Foreign Immigrant Workers in Japan," Regional Meeting on Traffic in Women in Asia and Pacific, February 19-22, 1997, Bangkok, Thailand.

533. Article 12.

534. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 7, 1999.

535. "More non-Japanese having babies," Asahi Shimbun (English version), October 8, 1999.

536. Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Takashi Sawada, Tokyo, Japan, April 7, 1999; Human Rights Watch interviews with Kimiko Ogasawara, Tokyo, Japan, April 19, 1999 and January 21, 2000.

537. Sarah Y. Usuki, "Filipino Migrant Workers in Japan: Their Behavior on Health Problems," Asian Migrant, vol. 9, no. 3, July - September 1996, p. 70.

538. "Holding out a helping hand," The Nation (Bangkok, Thailand), May 8, 1993.

539. Hiroshi Hayakawa, "Over 3 years in existence: Foreign workers still need MF-MASH," MF-MASH News, no. 10, January 1995, pp. 1-3, 6.

540. Abigail Haworth and Kyoko Matsuda, "Flesh and Blood: part two," August 1994.

541. "Record of Testimony," name: Toshihisa Sasaki, testified at Shimodate Police Station on September 30, 1991 to Police Officer Sugita.

542. Human Rights Watch interview with Atty. Kazuko Kawaguchi, Japan, March 9, 1994. Attorney Kawaguchi was one of the six lawyers representing the women.

543. Shima Kobayashi, "Summary of Due Process Violations found in the Key Court Cases -- Trafficking of Thai Women to Japan," July 11, 1997. Though as noted in the discussion above, efforts to file criminal charges against their employers failed. See the previous chapter for more information about the murder trial.

544. "What Price Freedom?," The Nation (Bangkok, Thailand), January 29, 1994.

545. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview with OASIS staff member, Japan, 1995. Note that Human Rights Watch was unable to find out the exact nature of the charges for which the owner was imprisoned. U.S. dollar amounts are calculated using the average exchange rate from 1992.