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Migrant Thai Women Subjected to Slavery-Like Abusers in Japan

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 8 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2002 Pages: 1113-1139
Kinsey Alden Dinan
Date Published
September 2002
27 pages
This article uses a case study of four women from Thailand to explore the slavery-like abuse of trafficked persons.
Thai nationals, the fourth largest group among undocumented migrants in Japan, leave for Japan with hopes of employment to provide a better life for their families. Most female migrants are working in the sex industry, either employed in bars or nightclubs or working on the streets. They rely on transnational networks of agents, brokers, and employers to arrange their travel and employment, and derive profits from migrant women’s labor through a system of deception, coercion, outrageous “debts,” and violence. “Trafficking in persons” refers to the transport and trade in human beings for the purpose of exploiting their labor. Although coercion is central to the definition of trafficking, the process often appears voluntary in its initial stages and the nature of the arrangement is not apparent until after the destination is reached. Trafficked women are generally recruited by a friend or other acquaintance. The job placement negotiations often provide the first clear sign of the slavery-like nature of their situation. Women referred to being “bought” and “sold,” with their purchase price becoming the basis for their debt to their employer. Women do not actually owe or repay these debts because they have not actually borrowed this money. The exorbitant debt women are saddled with form the basis of the system of coercion enforced by their employers. The debt itself provides a strong incentive for hard work and obedience. Language barriers, unfamiliar surroundings, and a lack of nearby family or friends isolate the women. They are dependent on their employers for food, medical care, housing, and other necessities. They are unlikely to receive sympathetic treatment from the police because of their status as illegal aliens and prostitutes. Most women are released within a year unless they escape from their employers before they are released from debt. The Thai Embassy or Japanese Government assists some. Law enforcement efforts in Japan focus on the illegal status of the women, ignoring the slavery-like abuses perpetrated against them. 20 notes, 13 references