1. Our Goals
1) The primary objective of JNATIP’s activities is to formulate effective laws concerning the prevention of trafficking in persons, victim relief and the punishment of perpetrators. 2) In order to achieve this objective, JNATIP will engage in the following activities:
<1> Create a compilation of data that clarify the situation of human trafficking in Japan.
<2> Propose a draft bill that will prevent human trafficking and relieve victims of human trafficking.
<3> Campaign to build constituency in order to formulate the laws.
2. The establishment of JNATIP
Japan has long been pointed out as a major destination country for the trafficking of persons. While concerned people have engaged in activities such as providing aid to victims and examining the existing domestic legal system, these activities have been isolated, and there lacked a collaborative effort among advocates. It is within this framework that The Asia Foundation hosted the International Symposium on “Trafficking of Women to Japan”, held in Tokyo in January of 2003.
The symposium brought together national and international NGOs, embassies, parliamentarians, the National Police Agency and attorneys in a discussion about the situation and legal issues surrounding human trafficking in Japan. While the symposium attracted the attention of foreign media and the foreign population in Japan, the Japanese media hardly covered the event. In a way, this is reflective of the degree of awareness in Japanese society today. However, the symposium did serve as the catalyst for the birth of a network of NGOs, parliamentarians and attorneys, resulting in several meetings after March of the same year.
During these meetings, the need to develop laws addressing harm prevention, victim relief and the punishment of perpetrators as well as the need for a renewed global consciousness were acknowledged. Together, these acknowledgements confirmed the need for full comprehension of the situation and a network of NGOs.
Subsequently, with the cooperation of many individuals, JNATIP (Japan Network Against Trafficking in Persons) was formed. JNATIP announced its official establishment by hosting a launching workshop held at the Tokyo Women’s Plaza in October of 2003. Apart from the NGOs, this workshop also received the support of the Thai and Colombian embassies, and the unexpectedly high number of participants included researchers, attorneys, the National Police Agency, the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office and representatives from the Ministry of Justice. This event was also generously covered by the Japanese media.
The biggest challenge thereafter was how to tie together the expertise of these people, all of whom have their own motivations and abilities, toward the goal of formulating a policy.
3. Activities to date
Although JNATIP was now officially established, the issues at hand being serious, it was first necessary to proceed by increasing the number of active members to work on the tasks, and to clarify the tasks and roles. In November and December of 2003, investigations were conducted and proposals were made. Thereafter, steering committees were made responsible for three areas ? the creation of a “data book” illustrating the details of the situation of human trafficking, the drafting of a bill, and the consciousness raising campaign ? and proceeded to coordinate the actors involved.
The creation of the data book was the first project to be tackled. The project plan was proposed in June 2003, with the cooperation of the Ochanomizu Women’s University’s Frontiers of Gender Studies COE program, JNATIP began executing this project. Together, we created a questionnaire, repeated detailed analyses, and started the survey in May 2004.
In January of 2004, with JNATIP’s strong encouragement, a working group to explore laws concerning the prevention of trafficking in persons and the protection of victims was established in the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. The working group began detailed studies regarding this issue with constant reference to the trafficking protocol. The working group is specifically and carefully exploring problems within current domestic law and necessary policies for the future, making sure that national law reform does not focus solely on the punishment of perpetrators.
Until December 2003, JNATIP’s office was situated at the Kyoto YWCA . However, in order to take advantage of the information available as well as to facilitate information exchanges with the embassies and governments of various countries, a head office was opened in Tokyo in January of 2004, with a staff working two days a week. The Tokyo head office is in charge of all correspondence regarding JNATIP’s activities.
4. Future activities
Since fall of 2003, which was around the same time that JNATIP was established, human trafficking has become an issue of major concern in both the media and governments. There has since been continued effort by international governmental and non-governmental organizations urging the Japanese government to stop neglecting the problem and to take action.
In April of 2004, the Japanese government formed a liaison team among government agencies relevant to the human trafficking issue, with the Cabinet office, the Ministry of Justice, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is reported that, with the objective of ratifying the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, these agencies will investigate ways of legal reform concerning punishments for organized crime, and aim to propose a relevant law to the regular Diet session in January of 2005. To achieve this objective, the punishment of perpetrators is required but it is not the only issue that needs to be addressed. As with any legal structure, preventing harm that has already surfaced is a complex task, and it is first and foremost necessary to safeguard and assist in the recovery of existing victims. To only address and enforce the punishment of organized crime is not comprehensive legal reform.
In order to create laws that would truly eradicate human trafficking and aid victims, it is first necessary to clarify the reality of the human trafficking situation in Japan. In order to do this, we need to accurately and efficiently proceed with the creation of the data book and the drafting of a bill. We also must direct our campaign not only to members of parliament but also to the wider society. We need to put all our energy into these three projects. (as of June 2004)
5. Growing network of counter-trafficking NGOs in Japan.
- Japan Network Against Trafficking In Persons -Our objective at the Japan Network Against Trafficking in Persons (JNATIP) is to prevent the trafficking of persons, to protect those who have been victimized, to support the rehabilitation of victims, and to punish the perpetrators. Further, we hope to promote an effective legislation that is capable of fulfilling the above objectives.
Somebody once asked me what the ultimate goal for JNATIP was, and I replied that the ultimate goal is disbandment. JNATIP was created as a coalition of groups and individuals with a clear objective who have joined forces in order to have much greater momentum in reaching this objective. We still have a long way to go until we reach the goal of disbandment, however. Even after new laws are established, JNATIP must see to it that these laws are properly applied, that a support system for the victims is established, and that all this functions smoothly. Once this objective is achieved, JNATIP would have accomplished its duties and would then disband.
Starting with a fact-finding survey
The three pillars of JNATIP are:
1. Investigative research on trafficking victims in Japan;
2. Lobbying for the proposal and establishment of laws including the support and protection of victims; and
3. Campaigning to raise public awareness on the problem of human trafficking.
JNATIP gained momentum from the international symposium held in Tokyo in January of 2003 on the trafficking of women to Japan, co-sponsored by The Asia Foundation and the ILO. The symposium provided a forum in which national and international NGOs, foreign embassies in Japan, diet members and the National Police Agency exchanged ideas on the problem of human trafficking with Japan as the receiving market. While the Japanese government signed the UN’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (the Trafficking Protocol) just a month before, the symposium received widespread response and attention from the international media due to the virtual lack of domestic initiatives to address trafficking prior to this meeting. From the organizer’s standpoint, I did not want the symposium to end as an event of singular significance. Without action to follow the dialogue, the symposium would have produced little more than pages of meeting minutes. With the rapporteurs to the symposium at its pith, we decided to hold regular study groups to address the issues brought forth during the meetings. Upon appealing the need for new legislation to National Diet members, the Diet members expressed their desire to see comprehensive data on victims of trafficking in persons in Japan. However, without even a working definition of trafficking victims, there is, of course, no comprehensive data on this demographic. Our first mission, then, was to grasp a full understanding of the situation of trafficking in persons in Japan.
We started preparations in June of 2003 by drafting a plan for the collection of information on trafficking victims in our study groups and forming the foundations of what would later become JNATIP as the actor for our activities. Gaining cooperation from Ochanomizu University’s Frontiers of Gender Studies COE Program (F-GENS), we later formalized our efforts into a project entitled “The JNATIP/F-GENS Research of Victims of Trafficking in Persons in Japan.” JNATIP was officially established based on the above-mentioned objectives in October of 2003.
As of October of 2004, we are still actively collecting information on trafficking victims from domestic and international aid organizations, foreign embassies in Japan and the victims themselves. Human trafficking is a business of the underworld; it is also a crime. These factors make it impossible to come up with fully comprehensive data, but by investigating case studies given by trafficking victims and aid organizations, we can grasp a general overview of the situation of human trafficking in Japan. If we can gain a good understanding of what the main trafficking routes are and how victims are able to get in contact with aid organizations, this helps us tremendously in discussing measures for establishing laws and modes of recovery support. Understanding the incentives for human trafficking also helps us contemplate prevention methods. What kind of life do those who migrate from sending countries expect to have in Japan? How does Japan look from their point of view before and after migration?
Our project is most noteworthy for its uniqueness as a collaboration of NGOs and academics, and especially for having successfully gained the cooperation of foreign embassies in Japan, such as the Thai and Colombian embassies. While NGOs and embassies ? who have the closest contact with actual victims of trafficking ? have much of the needed information, the know-how of how to analyze and record this information lies with the researchers. Embassies have a vested interest in Japan’s implementation of laws against trafficking from the standpoint of protecting those that live overseas. Without the cooperation of sending and receiving countries, we cannot solve the problem of trafficking in persons. Our victim research is proceeding through the sharing of the knowledge, experience and skills of NGOs, universities and embassies.
This sharing and cooperation is at the core of JNATIP’s existence. Participating in our efforts are groups with advocacy experience in various fields such as those involved in women’s shelters, NGO networks supporting foreigners in Japan, human rights, the elimination of discrimination, gender equality and children’s rights. In addition, there are researchers, lawyers, social workers, journalists and students who have years of involvement in citizen’s movements, international relations, migrant labor, social welfare and other relevant issues. The operation costs of our secretariat depend on donations, and the project is managed through grants and fundraising. JNATIP aims to work toward its objectives through the shared experiences and ideas of individuals who share noble ambitions and the capacity to sacrifice their time and efforts for this cause. In order to combat the complex multidimensional issues surrounding the trafficking in persons, it is necessary to take multifaceted perspectives into account.
The indispensability of international cooperation
Human trafficking is a transnational organized crime that knows no boundaries. No matter how well each individual country’s policies address the issue of trafficking, the lines of communication toward a resolution cannot be opened without international cooperation. Underlying the issue of trafficking are problems such as the economic disparities between sending and receiving countries, migrant labor and globalization. In order to prevent further harm and to support those who have already been victimized, we need to establish a system of cooperation between sending and receiving countries. This is another one of JNATIP’s areas of interest. For example, if a foreigner, who has been a victim of trafficking hopes to return to her home country, would she then be able to return to her previously held lifestyle? Is there still a place for her to go back to? Reality is harsh. Sometimes, family members of victims receive threats from trafficking brokers; some regions are not accommodating to returnees, who could have a hard time reintegrating; others, unable to find a financially independent alternative and reluctant to throw away the dream of a prosperous lifestyle, are inclined to return to the human trafficking route.
The human trafficking business was built on and thrives on the exploitation of the hopes and dreams of those who seek a better life in a different world. It is no easy task to try to tap into the situations of victims, many of whom do not want to talk, many of whom cannot talk even if they wanted to. The key to new measures lies in the sharing of experiences between local and international NGOs who have had successful undertakings in the past. The strength of NGOs lies in their ability to respond flexibly to diverse demands.
Japan has repeatedly been cited as being too passive regarding its domestic human trafficking problem, and the Japanese government has finally started to act. However, it does not suffice to simply treat the organized crime operations symptomatically while neglecting to understand and respond to the root of the problem. The rights and safety of migrants in search for a better life as well as their right to choose an occupation must be emphasized. To simply close the doors to foreigners would not only fail to resolve the problem, but is bound to promote further crime. Japan’s market as a receiving country is flourishing precisely because there is a demand. Japan has been criticized repeatedly from the international community because it has given free reign to the underground business of exploiting foreign women and because human rights violations are blatantly existent and remain unchallenged.
The role of civil society
So far, NGOs, who have extensive knowledge on relevant issues due largely to their experiences, have been the ones to support and aid those who have been victimized in Japan. The government has a solid supply of funds and the administrative infrastructure. In order to work toward the reduction of human trafficking, it is necessary for NGOs and governments to cooperate and to provide each other with what the other lacks. Thinking beyond the issue of trafficking, it is a necessary precondition to establish a trusting relationship between the government and NGOs in order to overcome the uncertainties of state-society relations and to achieve full cooperation. In Japan especially, there is a tendency to view the relationship between government and NGOs as being laterally unequal or as conflicting. While, on one hand, NGOs collaborate with governments to reach their objectives, they also critique and clearly state their opinions. This is because policies must reflect citizen’s voices. The key to the case of human trafficking lies in the ability to be in contact with victims of trafficking, and it is the NGOs that hold this key. In Thailand, the government and local NGOs have collaborated their efforts in a program to prevent the trafficking in persons. Starting with this particular example, Japan has much to learn from the rest of the world.
The three pillars of JNATIP given at the very beginning of this passage exist on the premise that international cooperation and NGO-government collaboration are indispensable. Currently, JNATIP is working on both the first and second pillars. Regarding the first pillar, it took longer than expected to try to find a feasible way to untangle the complex web of human trafficking victim research, and the Japanese government’s April 2004 advancement of initiatives through the inter-agency taskforce on human trafficking has also affected our timing.
As for the lobbying activities cited in the second pillar, a specialized team within JNATIP is aggressively reaching out to Diet members. During the extraordinary Diet session of October 2004, JNATIP sponsored a congregation where we appealed the need for efforts to address the human trafficking problem to Diet members, those responsible in the government, and legislators. Special committees on the human trafficking issue were created within the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party, the Komeito, the Japan Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, and further, a supra-party study group comprised of Diet members is also being held. While it is encouraging to know that there are an increased number of Diet members concerned with the issue of human trafficking, our priority is to have these Diet members understand why there is a need for a legal structure that incorporates victim support initiatives. Every time a JNATIP member is invited to study groups and such hosted by the political parties, we aim to explain the situation of human trafficking victims and to investigate detailed strategies on how to protect and support victims.
The Japanese government is aiming to compile official action plan on counter-trafficking measures by December of 2004. As the first step toward NGO-government collaboration, JNATIP offered its assistance in setting up a meeting to exchange ideas preceding action at an executive meeting of the inter-agency task force planned for November. In order to eradicate human trafficking, NGOs and governments must share information and have mutual awareness of the problem.
As for JNATIP’s long-term goals, we hope to trigger a society-wide recognition of the problem of human trafficking in Japan. We must work on creating an unprecedented public consciousness that clarifies the fact that human trafficking is a crime, and that Japan must not be a market for the trafficking in persons. It will be extremely difficult to transform the deeply rooted cultural bias and discrimination against foreign workers. We have been sponsoring seminars and workshops on human trafficking and transmitting information with the help of national and international media. We plan to have associated groups take advantage of their own networks and cooperate with regional autonomous bodies in order to evoke nationwide concern on the issue of trafficking and to diffuse action into all parts of Japan.(November 2004)
As of April 2005, we have 27 associated groups and more than 100 individual members. (Written by Keiko Tamai, Senior Program Officer, The Asia Foundation. Translated by Lisa Katayama)
Maruko Bldg. 3F, 1-20-6,
Higashi-Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo,