Tackling human trafficking, the modern form of slavery

Trafficking of women, children and men

by Anastasia Maillot

As I read several parts from Rhacel Parreñas’ Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo she introduced me to a rather terrifying fact. Philippine women migrating to Japan in search of hostess jobs are the most trafficked population in the world, working in conditions where their passports are taken and where they have no other option but to continue working in what I would call modern slavery or servitude with a nonexistent salary. As a response to the growing issues concerning Philippine migrants, the Japanese government has imposed stricter rules to entertainment visas, which has in turn barred the route for legal ways into the country and caused illegal entry through middlemen to flourish. Although Parrenãs brings out the positive in hostess work by explaining that few of the Philippine women feel like victims but instead see it as a way to gather money for their future or their families back home, I think there is a huge problem here, something that seems almost ignored; these women live in servitude, a form of modern slavery. This is not a job they do out of good will but because they have no choice.

Wasn’t slavery supposed to be over since the civil war? After reading Parreñas, I had to investigate and see it for myself. The truth is, there are more people living in slavery today than ever before. The site Free The Slaves estimates that at least 27 million people live in slavery, half of them being children. Moreover, I was shocked even further to find out from Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, that human trafficking more specifically is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. This means that today, what crosses our borders most often are not drugs or weapons, but human beings treated as mindless objects and sold into servitude. So, no, slavery is not over and it would be a mistake to say that it does not exist in the Global North, because it does. There seems to be this misconception that whatever atrocities happen in the Global South do not happen in “our countries”. We fail to understand that this phenomenon is everywhere around us, in factories, mines, brothels, farms, restaurants and construction sites. We simply close our eyes from the fact that we carry clothing made with extremely cheap labor and eat food from farmers that are deliberately exploited. Sometimes we even convince ourselves that anyone working as a stripper or as a hostess is most likely doing it because they chose to do so and want to.

Parreñas does say that people get involved into this because of the need for money. The Philippines is a good example as a country, because of its economic dependence on these women who leave their country in search for a better income either as hostesses or nannies. But this also puts these women in very fragile positions in host countries, as some of them might be ready to do anything to feed their family back home. This sense of necessity exists everywhere. There have even been cases in the US where parents have sold their children into slavery, although it remains more marginal than in the Global South. Still, we participate into this process by providing the demand to those middlemen, who then go out to look for these women, children or even men. We need to stop ignoring the alarming fact that more and more people are becoming victims due to economic necessities and do something about it, as trafficking and thus slavery is an issue that affects every nation in the world.

Governments have generally been slow or reluctant to do anything about trafficking, preferring to cover the issue with a band aid and hoping that things will eventually get better. Now, I understand the difficulty of tracking down the middlemen who sell these victims, not to mention the buyers or the customers. However, I came across a reading, Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It, by David Batstone, that introduced me to several different cases of slavery and trafficking in different countries and how the problem was successfully dealt with. Most often people have witnessed face to face the difficulties of the victims, felt compassionate and started searching for alternatives. In Thailand for example, a woman set up a jewelry business in which she recruited women from brothels, giving them a proper job, opportunities and restored their self-confidence. In Peru, a local woman provided temporary housing and activities out of benevolence for street children who face violence, trafficking and uncertainty every day. In many countries, most notably in Italy, churches work actively to rescue victims of trafficking and pulling them out of slavery by giving them a better life with opportunities. By working locally, we can make things change, but this requires the effort of everyone, not just “the chosen few”. As the example of Parreñas on the Japanese government showed, simple restrictions and ignorance of the actual heart of the issue will not solve anything, but instead create more illegal routes for trafficking and slavery to happen. A wider safety net for trafficked people is needed and the victims should not be punished for coming to the police and asking for help.

It is easy to ignore these issues, to think that it isn’t happening in your country or that it is too difficult to get involved. By thinking like this we will never be able to change things and rescue victims from the unacceptable conditions they live in all over the world. I acknowledge that with the resources we have now it is not possible to save everyone, but in order to tackle these issues we must think positively and proceed step by step. There are many options out there for us to explore, many cases in which local people have taken a step forward and done something about it. Even one victim with better opportunities, a real job and a much better life is already a victory in our battle against human trafficking and slavery.

Filipino hostesses in Japan: Volition or Coercion?

Rhacel Parreñas in the field, working as a hostess in Tokyo

by Jonas Horvei

According to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (2013), human trafficking can be defined as:

“[t]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

In this week’s blog post I would like to examine to whether or not Filipino hostesses working Japan can be considered as victims of human trafficking, especially under the category of sex trafficking. I will also consider whether there is a possibility that this is not the case of human trafficking, but rather an action which they carry out by their own volition.

First of all I would like to examine what kind of typical activities a hostess performs while working in a bar in Japan.

  • Takes on the role as an entertainer
  • Pours her customers drinks, often alcoholic beverages
  • Dances with them
  • Sings for her customers, often karaoke
  • Talks with her customers, being engaged in a conversation, often with a bit of “flirtative” nature, often while at the same time complimenting them.

On the basis of only this, it is naturally impossible to say whether these people working in such establishment are victims of human trafficking or not. Nevertheless if we look a bit deeper and consider if this at the perspective of sex trafficking we can start hypothesizing at least. According to the U.S Code §7102 – (10) sex trafficking can be defined as the following;

The term “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act”.

Judging from this definition, there does not seem to be any particular aspects that resembles a commercial sex act, and thus I argue that such kind of cannot be considered a case of sex trafficking. Although occasionally acts such as masturbating the customer did occur, nothing was mentioned whether this was carried out by their own volition or not. Looking at the culture of south-east Asian countries though, such “happy ending” customs are fairly normal in especially massage establishments such as in China and Thailand, which might explain why this is not necessarily  considered prostitution. While there are Filipinos working as prostitutes in Japan, at least on the surface it seems to me at first glance that the Filipino who come to serve as hostess, are mainly not victims of sexual trafficking.

For the meantime, let us go back to the case of human trafficking and see if there is any evidence that these workers can be considered victims of such a phenomenon. While indeed, it is likely that some of the Filipinos who migrate to Japan are forced to go against their own volition, and thus can be defined as victims of human trafficking, I argue that this is the exception rather than the norm. According to Parreñas (2011 p.3) no conclusive evidence exists that these workers are victims of human trafficking, but rather research indicates that most of the workers take this decision by themselves, and migrate by their own volition. Yet again according to Parreñas (2003 p.199), as much as 34 to 54 percent of the Filipino population is sustained by remittances by migrant workers. Such numbers tells exactly how much of an importance overseas Filipinos workers affect the homeland economy.

Nevertheless despite most of these people not being victims of human trafficking, there is no question that especially for migrants in such vulnerable occupations the working conditions can be lackluster, and that they might be victims of forced labor. This is something which needs to urgently be addressed, preferably in collaboration between the Philippines and the Japanese government.

Since 1999, Japan’s immigration policies have made it considerably more difficult, ultimately forcing many bars to shut down and many having difficulty coming over to work as hostesses (National University of Singapore, 2012). However, imposing restrictions on entertainer visas is in my opinion not a solution to combat human trafficking, or rather it is not a solution to improve the labor conditions for Filipino hostesses. Rather, I think such restrictions are what actually promotes and can actually be the trigger to human trafficking in the first place.

These migrants cannot work in their own country, the wages are either not enough to support a family, or simply they cannot find a jobs. Then naturally the next step is to seek work elsewhere, a different city, or a different country. Suddenly these options start to dwindle, and one is only left with the options of either living a life full of poverty or as a last resort they become victims or sexual trafficking, or become prostitutions out of their own volition to take care of their family.

I argue that hostess is a harmless job, and as long as this work is carried out of their own volition, restrictions should be lessened on entertainer visas, back to the way they used to be. Still, these people will continue to be exploited due to their resident status and so on, and therefore I believe the most important step to take now is rather than imposing more and more restrictions, a step in the right direction would be to protect these people by giving them more rights to them being victims of forced labor, and to collectively come up with a solution which can benefit all parties involved.

As summarized by the United Nations Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings report, a lot of the responsibility lay at the hands of the Japanese and Filipino government to improve this situation (Cameron and Newman).

References

“Human Trafficking.”  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Accessed 17 Nov. 2013. http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html

“U.S Codes – USC§ 7102 Definitions” Cornell University Law School. Accessed 17 Nov. 2013., http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/22/7102

Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. Illicit Flirtation; Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo. Stanford University Press (2011).

Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. 2003. “The Care Crisis in the Philippines: Children and Transnational Families in the New Global Economy.” Pp. 39-54 in Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Metropolitan Books

“Filipino in Hostess Clubs.” National University of Singapore, 29 Apr. 2012. Accessed 17 Nov 2013 http://wiki.nus.edu.sg/display/JPE2012/Filipino+in+hostess+clubs

Cameron, Sally, and Edward Newman. “Trafficking of Filipino Women to Japan: Examining the Experiences and Perspectives of Victims and Government experts” United Nations University. Online-only journal. Accessed Nov 17. 2013. http://www.unodc.org/pdf/crime/human_trafficking/Exec_summary_UNU.pdf

Filipinos and Asian Beauty

by Hsinmin Wang

Compared to other Asian countries, Philippines might be the most multi-colonial country. Successively occupied by China, Arabia, Spain, the U.S., and Japan, constructing the special attitude toward Asian aesthetic and global market. According to a report made by UNEP, in 2004 nearly 40% of women surveyed in the Philippines used skin lighteners. Compare to 61% in India, 77% in Nigeria, the figure seems nothing to be surprised at. But when we started to investigate the reason behind Filipinos using skin lighteners, we will discover the role of Asian beauty in Philippines beauty market. Not just pursuing for Eurocentric phenotype, but more likely to follow the step of East Asian countries, and trying to emerge in immigrant society. But how is these beauty standard constructed?

Joanne Rodilla discusses the use of Michele Reis’s racially ambiguous face in L’oreal advertisements. In fact, the endorser of L’oreal  changed to Fan Bingbing in 2010. Once you look at her picture, you can easily discover that she has the typical face Rondilla describes: glowing white skin, jet-black, and large, double-lidded, almond-shaped eyes. Though I can’t jump to conclusions that the fashion style inclines to Chinese aesthetic, but it does reflect more or less the changing marketing strategy.

There is a wide-spread saying, “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.” This reflects the idea that once you are away from the sun, you won’t get dark; and with this kind of slogan “high technology to repair, illuminate and brighten your skin,” women with darker skin become a symbol of lacking of self-control, self-discipline and will power. Thus, skin color becomes a reflection on job prospects, earning potential, and social status.

In skin lightener advertisements, we are continually watching Asian girls get skin color discrimination in their life, jobs, and family circles; then it all magically disappears after she uses the product. Sometimes we feel ridiculous, sometimes we feel unbelievable, sometimes we feel overstated; but what if these stories truly happened in your daily life? I think while these advertisements are trying to affect people’s aesthetic, somehow it reflects the real life situation.

Migrant Careworker Movement Seen from the Three Points: Individual’s Ethics, Sousveillance, and Quantity of Parent-Child Affection

by Shinsaku Hayashida 

We have been facing the gender gap between women and men or the poor and the rich. Regarding to this issue, Rhacel Parreñas made an interesting research on “migrant careworkers.” As Parreñas describes in this article “Care Crisis in the Philippines” (2003), globalization has been causing exportation of parental love from the South to the North, from the poor to the rich. In the new global economy, poor countries such as Philippine supply women as careworkers to another rich country, because they are in absolute poverty and there is a need for them to send remittance from the rich countries to their family left in their country of the origin. From the view of recipient countries, there is a demand of migrant careworkers since business women can no longer accept child care because of their work. Thus, Parreñas analyses these push and pull factors, particularly regarding to economic situations of each actor.

However, this phenomenon of migrant carewokers makes me focus on three additional elements: individual’s ethics, sousveillance society or disciplinary society, and quantity of parent-child affection.

First, I see a change of individual’s ethics in the mentality of recipient people, especially mothers. Until modern society, it was genetically-related-mothers who took care of their children, except for cases of stepfamily and orphans. This implies a traditional (and probably natural) ethics of mothers, that is to say, one’s true parent is responsible for child rearing. In contrast, today, we see mothers make other people care their own children, not in a short span, but in a long term. Some might say hiring migrant careworkers is just because of their working conditions, but not because of change of recipient mothers’ ethics. However, there is also no evidence for that. I think mothers’ ethics on child hiring more or less has been changing, accepting others to care their children.

Secondly, the change of ethics of each individual suggests me also a change of social structure composed of sousveillance and discipline. Sousveillance means simply inverse surveillance, or surveillance from below. Sousveillance may happen mutually and horizontally among civilians, not only from authority. To understand this concept more profoundly, we need to grasp the theory of a French thinker Michel Foucault. According to his book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) and his lecture of Collège de France in 1978 titled “the Birth of Biopolitics”, as a method of control of the modern nation-state, its productivity, and its population, not only political elements such as the legal system are “externally” established, but also the legal system itself has come to permeate “internally” into the consciousness as an individual’s ethics. Foucault describes this phenomenon by using a theory of “panopticism”. Panopticon is “a circular prison with cells distributed around a central surveillance station, proposed by Jeremy Bentham in 1791.”[1] Foucault describes disciplinary mechanism in Panopticon as below. In Panopticon, every person feels as if they were watched by a central surveillance authority, even if they were not. Then, these people’s mentality comes to automatically follow discipline imposed by authority. Finally, one’s consciousness becomes one’s own censorship to judge if he or his neighbor is obedient to existing discipline or not. Sousveillance is such a social function where people watch themselves in accordance with discipline. According to Foucault, such panoptic function can be seen even in schools, hospitals and anywhere in our daily lives. Now I presume that one of the causes of reproduction of the traditional ethics on child rearing is society’s panoptic function. If so, this suggests economic push and pull factors on migrate careworkers overcome panoptic function and reproduction of the traditional ethics on child rearing. Then, overcome makes a new maternal ethics: Others can be responsible for child rearing.

Finally, we see, more or less, unbalance and luck of affection in both parent-child ties in motherless families and also in recipient families. Today, migrant careworkers are mentally suffering from the situation where they are paying affection not enough to their true children but to others’ children. From the view of children far from their mothers, they are often lacking of parental affection, leading to “child’s sense of loss.” (Parrenas, 2003) On the other hand, we also see unsatisfactory parent-child exchange of affection in recipient families, because recipient children are under another careworker’s affection while his mom is cherishing working time more than caring their own children. To me, this, of course, doesn’t mean that children who have two mothers receive as double affections as usual, but I think they just receive two defective affections from a careworker and a mother. In contrast, children far from their mothers, in the poor countries, receive less affection. Then, as a result, it might be possible to say that quantity and quality of affection is decreasing in a global total.

Those are the three elements I recognize through the movement of migrant careworker.

References

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Paris, FR: Gallimard, 1975.

Foucault, Michel. the Birth of Biopolitics. Paris, FR: Seuil, 1978.

Parreñas, Rhacel. Care Crisis in the Phillipines New York: New York Metropolitan, 1978.

What is the future for undocumented children?

by Rina Yoshikawa

According to a survey in 2012, there were around 70,000 of illegal overstayers in Japan. In 2008, it reported about 150,000 were found illegal, which was more than twice as much as recorded in 2012. It seems like the number of illegal overstayers has declined as the survey shows, and we are able to solve this issue in few years. However, these surveys are only numbers of people who were exposed as illegal. It can be estimated that there would be around 300,000 to 400,000 illegal immigrants in Japan.

In the late 2000s, one Filipino family got a lot of attention from all over Japan since they had stayed in Japan illegally. According to the law, they were to send back to the Philippines, but their young daughter named Noriko Calderon grew up and lived her whole life in Japan and could not speak any other language than Japanese. It was a huge controversy for this family that had migrated from the Philippines to get out of poverty and to make a living in Japan, and actually made their life in Japan for long, but overstayed illegally. Their child, Noriko, has been brought up in Japan since she was born and had done nothing wrong, so she only got an exceptional acceptance to stay in Japan while her school life and her parents were sent back to the Philippines.

Even though Noriko grabbed a huge chance to stay longer exceptionally, she is not the only one who stands on the edge of border of their life. There are still hundreds of children in a same situation. Some might have already been forced to be sent back home, or some others might be scared of getting caught by immigration authorities. Moreover, they are even afraid to go to hospital when they are sick. They do not have a right to live just like normal people if they are not documented even though they migrated to make their life better and happier. For those children, they never get any choices and they have to depend on just the way they are until they are caught as illegal. Once they are found as illegal, they have no other way than to see the reality of undocumented with no power.

For this issue, I think all the children should be protected to live their life no matter what situation their parents create. Parents’ ego cannot disturb the future for children. At least I think we need to give those children education and healthcare with some condition to grab a chance of success when they get older. It should not be fully acceptable to anybody that may danger the country. However, I do not want children lose their bright future due to their unfortunate situation. All those innocent children should be able to take a chance to challenge for themselves.

Reference

Facts and details: foreigners in Japan. http://factsanddetails.com/japan.php?itemid=633&catid=18 (last seen on 2012-11-10)

法務省:本邦における不法残留者数の推移. http://www.moj.go.jp/content/000096008.pdf (last seen on 2012-11-10)

Immigrants face labor issues in the host countries

by Mao Shibata

Nowadays, globalization spreads all around the world and it has brought diffusion of international transportation so that people are able to flow freely over borders. The number of international immigrants who look for a job and seek more stable life is getting increase over the world, while they are struggling with serious labor problem in their host countries.

When I went to Vancouver during this summer vacation and stayed with my host Pilipino family, they were facing labor problem. The father had quit security guard and wanted to be an elementary school teacher, though the Vancouver government did not accept his require and grant letter of acknowledgement. Moreover they had two children who were still 6 and 8 and they live separately with their parents so that he had to take care of them in the home while the mother went to work during the long vacation. Since the mother was a breadwinner, she went to work 7 days a week and even worked on holidays as salary was higher than usual. They knew that as long as this condition persists, it is really difficult to make a living as their children get older. Then, what should they do? Should the father have to find another job-even if it is a lower wages one- while he leaves his children home alone? Should they send their children to their home country where their parents take care of their children?

Though they leave their home countries to get a job or to help their families, they cannot get stable and well-paid occupation even they have documents and the host country’s nationalities. Needless to say, immigrants who come to new country without any documents or visa cannot get a proper and high paying job. What’s more, their children those born and raised in host country also regard as illegal immigrants. Even they are educated exactly as well as children who have that host country’s citizenship and high skilled or talented people, they are not able to enter the university, get any certificate and satisfying job. It causes not only deprives of the children’s bright future but also it endanger their safety and the lives. Since it forces them to engage in unsustainable work and harsh environment such as day labor, low wages and prolong work besides, it may drag them into drug or gun crime to make much money.

Internationalization and development of the transportation make people easy to cross a frontier throughout the world and millions of people decided to go overseas to earn a livelihood or send money home to their families, however, they face multiple barriers in the host countries; low wages and long hour works, limited visa and citizenship. Not only try to restrict the immigrant’s occupations and to drive them away, but we need to consider how to improve their severe working situations and shift policies more flexible to accept them.

Globalization takes place in many different ways

by Julia Helbing

Nowadays globalization does not only mean to produce in one part of the world and do deliver these good to the other part of the world. I think it also means that you have to move to the places, where work is offered and employees needed.

In many developed countries, the costs of living have risen constantly. People have to pay more rent, the food is more expensive and of course, electronic devices also got more expensive because they are developed all the time and should make our live more easily. Therefore, a lot of women also have to work now to pay all the expenses she and her husband face. And if they have children, they even have to pay higher expenses. But what would happen if there is no one at home who can take care of the housework? Or who would take care of the children? Because of this, many families decide to hire a nanny from developing countries. Compared to nannies from their own country, they have to pay fewer wages. In addition, those nannies from abroad also work very hard to earn maybe more money. But still the nanny leaves her own family in her country of origin to go abroad and work for other people, just to send the money she earned home to her children to pay the expenses for the children’s education. This way, the mother wants to offer a better future to her children.

In my opinion, globalization now does not just shift production from one country to another; it also shifts people to other countries. But today we also have a lot of countries that depend on those workers coming from third world countries to rich countries.

There are many jobs that people in developed countries don’t want to do. They don’t want to take care of older or ill people, for example, or they don’t want to work in the fields and harvest potatoes or salad. Therefore, they are really happy to have workers emigrating from other countries to do this kind of work.

Japan has for example a contract with the Philippines about nurses coming from the Philippines to work in Japan. Since 2009, the countries entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, which means that Philippine nurses are trained and employed in Japan to face the decreasing number of Japanese nurses and caregivers. But after their training, the potential nurses have to pass an exam, which is in Japanese. So in addition to learning how to take care of other people, they also have to learn Japanese language. This is why unfortunately, not many nurses pass this exam. Since the start of this contract, only 13 Philippine nurses were able to pass the exam and therefore work in Japan. (1)

But of course I can understand that the nurses have to speak Japanese, because the patient in Japan normally can’t speak any other languages then Japanese.  And of course it is not easy to take care of sick people, so the exam has to be difficult. If the nurse would make a mistake, she could maybe kill the ill person, so I think it is correct that the exam is not easy to pass.

Nonetheless, this example shows clearly that in developed countries, workers from other counties are needed.  People from rich countries go to other rich countries to perform work there, so the gap they leave has to be filled with people from undeveloped countries.

References

  1. http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/253140/pinoyabroad/13-pinoy-nurses-pass-tough-japan-nursing-exams