The Polaris Project Japan is an organization dedicated to combatting human trafficking and child pornography in Japan, who Jake has worked with for almost seven years.
Recently, Japan’s controversial Japan Restoration Party Leader, Toru Hashimoto, offended many in and out of Japan earlier this month with remarks trivializing the suffering of sex slaves in wartime Japan and suggestions that US soldiers in Okinawa would benefit from using Japan’s legal sex parlors.
His spirited defense of his statements on Twitter didn’t seem to help much and he held a press conference on May 27th to apologize to the world. In the interests of those who would like to know more of the story, we have posted the Polaris Project Japan response to his twitter utterances.
“My critics seem to think that my comments mean massage industry = prostitution = sex. Well, the Japanese people are cleverer than you think: they know how to offer services that are sexual in nature while not crossing the line and staying within legal boundaries. And if you look at situation in Japan right now, women who need to work in that field out of economic necessity are close to nil; they’re doing it by choice. If anything, one should utilize these services to the fullest.”
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s May 13th Tweet
Recently Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s string of comments on prostitution has caused an uproar in the foreign and domestic media, but we here at Polaris Project Japan hope to take this as a chance reflect on Japan’s views on prostitution and the sex industry.
Mayor Hashimoto’s comments are not only shameful as the mayor of Japan’s second largest city, but, we believe, somewhat reflect society’s apathy towards slavery, the sex trade, and the human rights violations that occur within. For over the last ten years, not only the U.N. but North American and other Asian countries have pointed out and censured Japan on the human rights violations occurring within its sex trade. The problem lies in part with the Japanese media not reporting these matters, leaving Japanese citizens with little awareness of the problem.
The forced labor that Mayor Hashimoto claims do not exist in the sex trade is, in actuality, a grave problem in Japan. Many foreigners are forced into to working in Japan’s sex industry, resulting in Japan being lamented by many in the international community as a “human trafficking destination superpower.” And whether child prostitution, child pornography, the adult sex trade or forced prostitution, many Japanese victims exist as well. This January in the very city Mayor Hashimoto presides over was the case of two Japanese women in their early twenties forced into prostitution by black-market loan sharks before being rescued.
Next month in May, the U.S. government will release its Trafficking in Persons Report that is released as part of its effort to abolish human trafficking. Sadly, Japan continues to be ranked asa country that “does not fully comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” for twelve years in a row, ranking the same as countries such as Cambodia. Unsurprisingly, Japan is the lowest ranked of the G8 countries. Considering there’s still no anti-trafficking government policy in particular in place, this year a similar evaluation is expected.
We here at Polaris Project Japan believe that the mistaken belief of the sex industry being either a victimless crime or that those involved have entered by choice (a misconception Mayor Hashimoto’s comments do well to illustrate) lie at the root of the difficulty in Japan abolishing human trafficking. Japan’s lax policy towards this issue is an international embarrassment; in addition, it reflects not only an apathy that allows for sex trade victims to needlessly increase but also a society that in effect condones the sex trade’s human rights violations and the human suffering of its victims. We hope that the mayor’s statements have produced a chance for reflection as well as an opportunity for Japan to rethink its views on these issues.
Translated By Andre Perez
The original Japanese version of this article can be found here: http://www.polarisproject.jp/news/1208-20130516