Author- Maria Santana
Human trafficking is a growing international issue where according to human rights first, a non-governmental organization, every thirty seconds someone becomes a victim. This is a problem across the globe that unfortunately has not improved. The Japanese have been experiencing human trafficking in their country where women, men and children are brought there for either forced labor or sex trafficking. Many of the victims come from either the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia & Latin America. Some of these people are migrant workers are brought in through fraudulent marriages and are then forced into prostitution.
This article was inspired by a report on Univision in late 2014 on a spanish speaking television program called Primer Impacto. The report was on a human trafficking victim named Marcela Loaiza who at the age of 21 was sex trafficked to Japan. Loaiza, a native Colombian native was promised a job upon arrival to Japan. Her situation in Colombia was tough where she was a single mother and lost two of her jobs because her child got sick. When she arrived to Japan, her passport had been taken away and was forced to work as a sex worker. She was forced to wear a blonde wig and blue contact lenses as a sex worker. Loaiza says that she had to sleep with over a dozen clients on a daily basis. Her goal was to earn the $50,000 that she had to pay the Yakuza in order to have her passport returned to her. Imagine being 21 years old, taken to a foreign land and forced to work as a prostitute for 18 months. That was her ordeal until a client saved her life. She confided in him about her situation. Eventually Loaiza escaped and went to a Colombian embassy in Japan and was told that she had been a victim of human trafficking.
Based on her experiences as a human trafficking victim, established a non-profit organization named ‘La Fundación Marcela Loaiza’ and wrote a book about her experiences in Japan.. Its mission is to prevent and help victims of human trafficking in Colombia. Loaiza believes that the victims of human trafficking in Colombia or any other part of the world where extreme poverty exists are more susceptible to that because of lack of education. That notion is true where most people who become victims of human trafficking have limited sources of education. It must be noted that there are victims that come from developed countries such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France and others. She moved to the United States where she has formed an alliance with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Although unknown to some, the Japanese had been immigrating to South America since the mid-19th century. This coincides with the Meiji Restoration in 1868 that led to cultural, social and political changes in Japan. The first country in South America to accept Japanese immigrants was Peru although Brazil has the highest Japanese emigrant population of all Latin America.
Presently Japan is a member of the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Report or TIP protocol that has not been ratified since 2000 along with South Korea. The Protocol to Prevent, Suspend and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children was drafted in 2000 and enacted in 2003. Sex trafficking has been a notorious tradition in Japan since the 19th century with the practice known as karayuki-san. Young women and girls would be systematically be removed from their homes in poor Japanese prefectures and be sold for sex to foreigners. Not all victims of human trafficking today are foreigners but also Japanese runaways. There is also a history of sexually exploited women in Japan and they are known as comfort woman.
It is important to take into consideration that Japan, a state deemed xenophobic is having this problem. The perpetrators of human trafficking in Japan are not just necessarily the Japanese gangs such as the Yakuza but also snakehead, Russian mafia, Nigerian mafia, Triads, and Iranian gangs to name a few. Although Japan is strict with foreign visitors, how is it possible that Japan can have such a huge problem with human trafficking? Also who tend to be the clients who pay for services from these human trafficking victims? Must there be an investigation of high ranking political officials and business men in Japan in order to find the answer?
For more information on human trafficking and where countries rank please check out the US Department of State at www.state.gov.