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Japan: Offence of Human Trafficking Applied to Case of Japanese Woman for the First Time

     According to the reports by several newspapers, the Tochigi Prefectural Police announced on 23 July 2007 that they had arrested the following four persons for the fresh charge of trafficking in human beings: A, member of a gang and owner of a massage parlor in the prefecture (already being tried on the charges of the offence of capture and confinement causing death and injury and other offences); B, female owner of a massage parlor (having been prosecuted on the charge of the offence under the Prostitution Prevention Act); C, former manager of a massage parlor; and D, member of a gang and owner of a massage parlor.
     According to the police investigation, the female victim, resident of Koyama City, had been employed at a massage parlor owned by Suspect A and managed by Suspect C. Suspect A notified the victim of fabricated debt due to her leave without permission and demanded her to pay back. Although the victim escaped from the parlor, being unable to pay back the debt, she was taken back by Suspect A and, on 18 February 2007, was sold off to Suspect B for some 1.5 million yen, who kept her under house arrest in her premises. The victim managed to contact her family, however, who reported to the prefectural police. The police conducted a raid on the massage parlor owned by Suspect B, two days after the deal, and took the victim under their protection.
     Having confirmed the charges, the investigation team of the Tochigi Prefectural Police arrested the four suspects on 21 July and turned them over to the Tochigi Branch of the Utsunomiya District Public Prosecutor’s Office two days later. The two parlors owned by Suspects A and B allegedly had the proceeds of more than 300 million yen for the period from June 2004 to May 2007. Suspects A and C were arrested on the charge of selling a person and Suspects B and D on the charge of buying a person.
     The new offences of buying and selling of human beings were introduced into the amended Penal Code (Articles 226-2 and -3), which entered into force in July 2005. While some cases involving female foreigners as victims have led to the prosecution and convictions of the perpetrators under the new provisions, the present case is the first one to which the new provisions are applied where a Japanese woman has been victimized.
     In 2003, when there were no offences of buying and selling of human beings prescribed in the Penal Code, an owner of a host club was involved in the sale of several girls of fifteen to seventeen years of age for the purpose of prostitution. The owner was arrested in January 2004 on the charge of the offence under the Act against Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Allegedly having intimidated the three victims and made the two of them withdraw the complaints, he was also arrested on the charge of the attempt of compulsion by the juvenile section of the Hyogo Prefectural Police.
     Although not having come to light, there appear to be cases of women with multiple debts or runaway girls with nowhere to go who are victimized in human trafficking.

Source: "Selling Woman into Massage Parlor: Gangs Arrested for the First Time", The Mainichi Newspapers, 23 July 2007 [Japanese]
"Gangs Arrested for Human Trafficking: Japanese Woman Victimized - Tochigi Prefectural Police", The Asahi Shimbun, 24 July 2007 [Japanese]
"Demanding Debt Payment by Taking Advantage of Ignorance: Clandestine Sex Parlor Detected", The Kobe Shimbun, 26 May 2004 [Japanese]
See also:
· Ministry of Justice: 47 Victims of Trafficking Protected in Japan in 2006 (Hurights Osaka News in Brief)

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