Discrimination causes self-discrimination and vice-versa

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Anonymous student post

It is bad sign to start with triteness, but for my defense I can say that sometimes we need to remind ourselves simple truths which we always tend to forget. So here is a well-known fact: gender as opposed to sex is created by people, not nature. We all understand that since it follows from definition of word ‘gender’ as ‘socio-cultural sex’, but we somehow forget that if gender exists in people’s mind, not in real world, then it is people who put sense in this concept. But here comes great paradox of our society: we talk about gender inequality as a problem that must be solved, but still wear newborn baby, who is too young to even say word “gender”, in pink if it is girl and in blue if it is boy. We start with clothes while baby don’t understand anything about its sex yet, and continue cultivate gender with imposing socio-cultural role on grown-up child. From now on girl will wear uncomfortable dress and play with doll and boy will climb trees in his pants. And this is the very beginning of discrimination.

Such paradox is common occurrence in patriarchal (or “masculine”) societies, which Japan is related to. In such societies gender roles are clearly distinct as well as characteristics that women and men are supposed to have. Patriarchal culture implies that woman is object of men’s desire, which he admires, that is why the main thing that matters about this “object” is its appearance. But I could not help but wonder: isn’t it women, who maintain this status of themselves? Isn’t it women who dress their daughters in pink and say to them that the most important is to find a good husband?

This thought was getting stronger while I was reading the articles “The care crisis in the Philippines” and “Global women”. Migrant mothers challenge the dominant gender ideology, which holds that a woman’s rightful place is in the home, but in fact these mothers migrate to do in other houses abroad that very work they are supposed to do in their own house. “Migrant mothers, who work as nannies carry for other people’s children while being unable to tend their own.” In masculine society underpaid and not prestigious work designed for women, in short, woman is supposed to be engaged in the same work that she does at home – that is service sector. And immigrant women, engaged in service sector, support masculine society’s view on woman, even though they want to earn more money and become independent. That is what I call self-discrimination. And the best example of this self-discrimination is the fact that middle-class families come to depend on migrants from poorer regions to provide child care and homemaking. It means that women from the First World who almost achieved gender equality support gender inequality for women from poorer regions!

Japan provides best examples of women’s self-discrimination. Being patriarchal society, it considers woman as an object, and that’s why it provides great variety of places where women should entertain men. There are not only Hostess Clubs, but also so-called キャバクラ “Kyabakura” (cabaret-club), スナックバー “Snack Bars”and メイドカフェー “Maid Café”. It is obviously represents Japanese society’s view on woman. Yes, not Japanese men’s view but society’s view, because quick look at modern situation is enough to understand that women don’t oppose this view at all. They try very hard to be かわいい “kawaii” (cute), and they even created new category of Japanese TV show – “obaka-chara” (stupid character), where women acts pretending to be stupid and be laughed at – and, therefore, to be “kawaii”. Where is demand, there is supply, in other words, discrimination causes self-discrimination, and self-discrimination supports discrimination. Is there any exit from this vicious circle?

References

Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, “The Care Crisis in 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, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild. (New York Metropolitan, 2003).

“Introduction” by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild. (New York Metropolitan, 2003).

Banning Sex-Work Backfires

Hostess club sign, Roppongi

Hostess club sign, Roppongi (Photo credit: Susanna Quinn – Book Group Author)

Anonymous student post

In 2004 a newly required Trafficking in Persons Report was released by the U.S. Department of State. The report stated that Filipinas working as hostesses in Japanese clubs constituted the largest group of sex-trafficked persons, making up more than 10 percent of the total worldwide. In response to the deeply embarrassing report, the Japanese government decided to take quick action. New visa requirements and a more rigorous screening process were hurriedly enacted for those seeking the “entertainment visa,” which is how most sex-workers would classify themselves.

The result looked great on paper. The number of Filipina hostesses in Japan dropped 90%, from 82,741 in 2004 to 8,607 in 2006. But in reality sex-workers were still being trafficked into Japan, worse yet they now were rendered “illegal”. The sex workers coming into Japan were coming on their own volition for the most part. But now, they find themselves at the mercy of their employers without any laws to protect them. Since they are no longer legally in Japan, they have little ground to defend themselves from abusive or even dangerous employers. Even though Japan has improved itself in the eyes of the Trafficking in Persons Report, the short-sighted tactic they chose backfired making the matter worse for trafficked workers.

Since required workers are required to prove 2 years of training or internship as performing visual artists, Filipinas have resorted to coming in through illegal means. The new sex-workers are tightly coupled to their employers due to their illegal nature. The problem being they still needed jobs, and there was still a lucrative market to fill. No matter what laws the Japanese government imposes, there will always be loopholes that the illegal market finds around them, and in this case it was at the expense of the victims themselves.

It is no surprise that Japan was at the top of the list of Trafficking in Persons report. As long as the market in Japan for sex-workers exists, the problem with migrant sex-workers will coexist. The market for sex-work in Japan is disproportionately large for a country among the 5 highest in GDP.  If paying for sexual services had the taboo reputation it does in other world powers, the demand for sex-work in Japan wouldn’t be large enough to cause embarrassment. If the Japanese government could convince citizens that paying for sexual services is unpopular, they could do a much more effective job at mitigating the issue, and better yet, it wouldn’t be at the expense of the migrant sex-worker victims themselves. Additionally, new markets for the migrant workers would appear.

Criminalizing migrant sex workers does not aim for the core of the issue. Rather, a reduction of the market for sex-workers needs to take place in order to mitigate the demand. The sexual objectification of women is rampant among males in Japan. Gender inequality in Japan is partly to blame for the sexual objectification of women. The popularity of hostess bars and other payed-for sex work is deeply entrenched in masculine Japanese culture today.  If women were seen equally, the Japanese would begin to see what’s taboo, or even wrong with sex work. Societies view of women leaves migrant workers with little choice outside the uncomfortable opportunity for sex work. The government needs to work from the ground up with education of Japanese youth. The distinct, unbalanced roles of men and women need to be flattened out for society to understand the detriments of objectification of sex.

References

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-13/what-i-learned-about-migrant-sex-workers-by-being-one-part-1-parrenas.html

Illicit Flirtation: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo, by Rhacel Salazar Parreñas. 2011. Stanford University Press.

Some thoughts on the migration situation in Sweden

by Fei Long Yu

First of all, I want to apologize to those who takes offense by my blogpost. It’s not my intent to actually raise some anger or disappointment, this blogpost presents some thoughts from my side regarding the migration situation in Sweden.

Sweden is a country that has a generous asylum and migration system. For example, the latest news from the Ministry of Migration is that Sweden will “relax” the rules and regulations and accept more migrants  fleeing their home country for different reasons, such as war (e.g. Syria). Sweden has also something called relative migration; which means that if there’s one parent in Sweden they can legally take their whole family to Sweden (a spouse and the children, if they is under 18) and get permanent residence permit.

The last year, Sweden accepted 103,059 new migrants, which the Ministry of Migrants says is the highest number of migrants accepted to this day.  Except for returning Swedish citizens (19.9%), most of the migrants came from Syria (4,6%), followed by Afghanistan (4.5%), Somalia (4.4%) and Poland (4.3%). This is a relative high of migrants; the Swedish population is around 9 million citizens.

The migration topic a relatively sensitive in Sweden, no one wants to speak openly about the migration situation in Sweden. During these last year, an “old” political party has been brought into the light, whereas it has a specific agenda that many migrants in Sweden experience as offending. One of the agenda is to limit the migration in Sweden, but many of the migrants in Sweden have interpreted this as “kicking all the migrants out of Sweden”. Therefore many migrants were afraid of what would happen if this political party actually got into the parliament (as of today it’s in the parliament, but without “actual” power).

Why does this party want to limit the migration to Sweden? Is the migration in Sweden a problem? Well, the migration is not the issue here. The issue is how to actually incorporate all the migrants in the society effectively. First of all, when the migrants enter Sweden, they have to take a mandatory language course in Swedish, so they understand at least the basic language and should be able to commit simple conversations. After this mandatory introduction the migrants are supposed to search for a job and start working.

This is where the first problem starts. Since many of these migrants do not have an education (maybe except for the elementary school or similar) they cannot take on any job that involves an education or complex language explaining (for example receptionist). So these kinds of jobs are out of question.

What does this leaves the migrations with? Blue collar jobs. Herein lies the second problem; blue collar jobs are becoming fewer and fewer since many of these works are outsourced outside of Sweden. Then, what’s next on the list? To start an own business! If the migrant is lucky enough to have some relatives in Sweden this might work, but it’s not unusual for the migrants to be alone in Sweden, so therefore they cannot open up a business since they can’t borrow money from the bank (the bank require an income if a loan is to be granted). From here it’s just one option, to be supported by the government and take a part of the welfare.

What does this mean? Well, if Sweden is accepting more migrants that can’t incorporate into the society or support themselves, who pays the bill for these migrants? The citizens in Sweden that pay taxes. This may be one of the reasons why a party as this one has been able to “catch” many votes and gotten into the parliament; many people want a change before letting more migrants in to Sweden. The people want the welfare to be spent on their own population first (e.g. education and elder care) before spending money on migrants. As said in the beginning of this post, this is not a blogpost meant to provoke or upset anyone; this is just a blogpost stating my personal thoughts about the situation about migration in Sweden.

Reference

http://www.scb.se/Pages/Article____352486.aspx

How Legal is a Hostess Bar?

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho...

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho, Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Miranda Solly

The issue of women from the Philippines working in Japanese hostess bars, as described in research by Rhacel Parreñas, was thought-provoking for me. One point I would like to address in particular is the stereotype of these women. There is an apparently widely held expectation that the women working in a hostess bar would be illegal immigrants, as can be seen in videos of Japanese police raiding hostess bars. This is also a common belief surrounding places like lap dancing bars in the UK (my native country). As was demonstrated by those videos, very few of the Filipino women were actually in Japan illegally. Why does such a misunderstanding about this kind of work exist?

While the past 50 years or so have seen a huge change across the world in the way race, gender, and sexuality are perceived, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that we’ve not managed to reach equality yet. In a way, hostess bars in Japan are a perfect example of this. First of all, consider gender and sexuality. If a group of men go to a hostess bar, it is seen as a good night out. If a woman works at one, however, there are suppositions made about her morality, her economic position, and her vulnerability. Why is it socially acceptable to use a service, but not to provide it?

Moreover, the women who come to Japan from the Philippines to work in hostess bars are assumed to be illegal, and most probably trafficked to Japan against their will. As Parreñas’ research demonstrated, for the majority neither of these is true. Often, women find that they can earn much more as a hostess than other jobs, so the work makes economic sense. This reason is probably no different to the reason why Japanese women work in hostess bars. Why does a female immigrant’s nationality play such a large role in the way she is perceived at her job?

As a foreign student in Japan, I can apply for a work permit and am free to take up a job such as teaching English, as long as it does not interfere with my studies. But that work permit does not allow me to work in a hostess bar. On the other hand, the entertainment visa that allows you to work in a hostess bar is specifically targeted at women from the Philippines. This distinction is made because of our different goals in entering Japan. But why should a part-time job at a hostess bar, talking in Japanese with clients, distract me from my studies more than a part-time job at an English school, speaking English with clients? I would have thought that the former would actually give me more of a chance to improve my Japanese. However, hostess bars apparently sit uncomfortably close to immorality for Japanese lawmakers. They appear to be tied up with all kinds of crime; mafia, trafficking, prostitution. While it is not actually prostitution, an unsuspecting foreign student would no doubt be in serious danger if allowed into such an environment. But if the work is so dangerous, why are women on the entertainment visa allowed to work there? In fairness, the Japanese government did also attempt to protect female immigrants from the Philippines from these threats, by changing the entertainment visa laws. However, it was shown that this actually forced some of the more vulnerable women into prostitution in other countries.

I’d like to suggest that instead of treating hostess bars as more illegal than they are, we do the opposite. They may offend a conservative person’s sensibilities, but the sex industry exists in one form or another in most parts of the world, and has done so for a very long time. As can be seen with hostesses from the Philippines, if conservative attitudes discourage native women from this kind of work, immigrants often fill the jobs; this also appears to be true in the UK. Looking at history you can see that making sex work illegal does not make it go away, and while some people attribute it to our endemic gender imbalance, that is unlikely to be rectified any time soon. In any case, hostess work is as emotionally taxing as, say, a flight attendant’s job, but no-one views foreign flight attendants with the same mistrust. Hostess work is also much less open to abuse than prostitution. By allowing hostess bars to exist on the same level as mainstream society, it would be easier to police visas and abuse, and an open discourse might help to dispel some of the myths surrounding women who immigrate to work there.

Migrant women in the third world and gender ideology

be Jeawon Moon

Imagine you are a career woman who has a family in a first world country. If you struggle to persist with working and housework together, it is really easy to find a cheap maid or nanny service with a click of the mouse. There are a lot of maids and nannies in the first world who are migrant women from the third world.

The growing crisis of care in the first country has increased demand for caring service especially caused by women’s advancement in the society. The migrant women workers are an invisible power to sustain the economic participation of women and global cities in the first world.

Above this, there are two more factors influencing the significant increase of the migrant women workers. The third world has faced serious polarization of wealth and devastated economies due to global capitalism. The migrant women workers are considered as the way to revive the economy at the national level. Lastly, they decide to migrate to gain better economic opportunities for themselves and their family.

Let’s think about the gender ideology involved with this trend of migration. Does the trend have a positive influence on developing gender egalitarian views on society? At first, the answer looks like yes. Even though it is hard to ignore the structural factors forcing third world women to migrate, it is also an important fact that they decide to migrate autonomously, unlike previously when many migration women were tied movers.

Also, the migration of women workers challenges traditional gender portrayals that woman takes care of housework and child caring and man is the breadwinner. They decide to migrate for their poor family and become the main breadwinner. They have even played an important role in national economy. In other words, it seems that society is moving towards gender equality.

However, there are some doubts that the migration challenges traditional gender roles. It may actually solidify them. In truth, much of the work for the migrant women is limited to reproductive labor, which refers to caring work to sustain households. Typically, reproductive labor has been considered a woman’s duty and identity. They fill the blank of traditional roles in the houses of the first world since women of the first world do not want to take the roles because of their work.

Also, because women leave their families to go to the first world, there will be the blank of caring in their families, which will be filled with another woman of the third world who is too poor to migrate to other countries or by female relatives. In this global care chain, there is an almost complete lack of man’s role to care for a family after the woman has migrated.

Especially in the Philippines, the government and media condemn migrant mothers with concerns that they are causing a family break-up. Although the economy has been sustained by remittances from migrant workers, they shift the responsibility of family crisis only to migrant mothers and insist that return is the only solution.

The trend of migration illustrates that both career women of the first world and migrant women workers of the third world have an unfair social status compared to that of men. Even though more and more women are entering the workforce in the first world, they are still considered as the main player of housework. So, they would like to hire migrant women workers to do caring work instead of them. In the third world, migrant women workers’ absence is filled with other women. This contradictory, unfair gender ideology dominates current global society.

Global Care Chain Reinforcing Gender Roles

English: photo rhacel parrenas

Rhacel Parreñas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yuri Kasai

I would like to discuss about ‘global care chains’. This concept was first used by Arlie Hochschild and developed by many authors such as Rhacel Parreñas. This concept refers to global processes to exchange care and salary. Care includes child care nursing for the sick and elderly people, and love giver. I will focus on global chains of child care, which we discussed in class.

About child care, women in richer countries cannot raise their children because they are busy from their job and they do not have time to bring up children. Therefore, women in richer countries hire a migrant mother from the poorer country as a nanny. Nannies send remittance to their family to support financially instead of taking care of their children. The role of migrant mothers to care their own children is imposed on their older female sibling or their relative women and most fathers who stay in their home do not help to care children. The distribution of roles attributes gender role in the migrant’s home countries. Philippines are one of the sending countries of nannies and most Philippines’ male families do not help out child rearing. Host countries of foreigner nannies are the US and European countries such as Belgium, France, Germany and Italy (GCIM, 5).

I think the labor exchange of child rearing cannot replace to parental love. Our professor argued that care is not an exchangeable resource like any other products, and hiring nannies lets parents in developed countries to keep two types of illusions: 1) the illusion to have all including work, family, and leisure, and 2) the illusion of maternal love. I agree with this opinion.

Parents’ assumptions let them to spend their time to develop their career or something. The families seek what they want to do, lose strong tie and time to gather around. However, family relations last for many years till parents die in many cases, even though the children do not like their parents.

Family is not collection of blood relations but a tie of human with love. It is better for parents to create good relations with children through rearing them well from babyhood. If not, parents have difficulty that children take to them and children maybe take to only their nanny, considering about the time to spend for children. Their children are not the status of parents but humans who need love. If parents need good relations with their children, parents need to care their children physically instead of hiring nannies for children. To migrant mothers, if they can love children deeply as a nanny, they miss their own children. Parents in developed countries should notice this and think that breeding children need physical care.

In order to reduce the number of children without love from parents, I think we need to make society with smaller gender role. Although migrant nannies give maternal love for children, children need parents’ love to be a good family. In some developed countries, such as the US, Germany or Italy, they seemed to complete better gender-free society. However, children care is depended on migrant mothers and gender role is imposed on immigrants. This tendency does not destroy gender role and gender role in developing countries enlarges to the developed countries. We should make global society without gender role.

Reference

Global Migration Perspective: Global Care Chains, A Critical Introduction. Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM). Sep, 2005. www.gcim.org.

A Silent Justification of Poverty?

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Anonymous student post

The fact that there is a global transfer going on in the realm of women’s work (mostly child work and housework) in affluent countries, where migrant woman from third world countries are being utilized as emotional (for child care) resources replacing the mother’s work in the house as nannies, caretakers surprised and disturbed me at the same time.

The cause of this transfer trend is that in western countries, not only are men independent and serve as breadwinners of their family, but woman have joined this equation and as a result, have become to taken by their work, leaving them no time to do housework as well as providing emotional care for their children (child care).

In a crude fasion, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild explain in Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy that this demand gap in affluent countries (described as a “care deficit”) pulls Third World migrants, in other words, poverty stricken situations pushes the migrants to enter and fix the care deficit.

Though this can be glorified by affluent countries that they are providing opportunities for the poor, this cycle works well if the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As global inequality progresses, the more immigrant workforces are imported to affluent countries.

Another crude factor that makes this possible is the dual emotional and psychological burden the workers go through. This is caused by the physical separation between her and the girl or child she is taking care of, and the inability to physically and emotionally connect with the worker’s real child.

Sustaining a healthy emotional connection is another burden altogether. Whether migrant workers can sustain an emotional connection with their children back home depends on how the children or other family members perceive them. This changes depending on how the parent communicates her situation to the child. The more the parent seems to be struggling for the family, the more emotionally close the child would feel.

On the contrary, the more they seem to be struggling for themselves, seem selfish in their reason to migrate in the first place, the child is more likely to feel emotionally detached. It seems as if affluent countries of the west are silently contributing and justifying global inequality at the cost of dual psycological stress the migrant workers go through.

Penalizing the Sex Worker or the Customer: French Policies on Prostitution

Prostitution Réprimée Santé Sacrifiée

Prostitution Réprimée Santé Sacrifiée (Photo credit: William Hamon (aka Ewns))

Anonymous student post

We studied in class the migrations and their influence on sexual work. This phenomenon, as complex as important, is a subject of debate and polemic within the political class. Concerning a badly known, and sometimes taboo, subject; prostitution remains a difficult domain to supervise effectively by the law. Connected to this subject, a law is going to be voted in 5 days in France. This draft law is an innovative initiative because it proposes the penalization of the customers instead of the prostitutes. This blog post will present the various opinions emitted on this subject, in a sociological aim towards the sexual workers.

At the origin of this project, there is an alarming report on the state of the prostitution in France. On 40,000 sex workers acting in France, 90% would be foreigners, victims of the sexual exploitation. The Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, particularly in favour of this law, has for ambition to remove the prostitution from France. To penalize the customers, with 6 months of detention and 7500 euros of fine, appears as a way to destroy the source of the prostitution: the demand. These arguments arise from the idea that the prostitution is very rarely chosen and generally undergone. Adopting a law like this would respect the principles of the Republic. Also it could destroy the financing of the mafias and so on destroy the traffic.

On the side of the opponents of this project, the arguments are not either lacking. “STRASS”, France’s sex workers union, is one of the main opponent. For them, such a law translates a moralistic ideology of the politicians. The abolition of prostitution, for them, seems to be an unattainable goal, furthermore such a law would damage above all the prostitutes. To penalize the customers would create an increase of the violence. Instead of trying to destroy mafia networks, such a law would only serve to stigmatize more the sexual workers. In the name of paternalists and puritans ideals, the politicians would prefer to attack the smoke rather than the fire. The failure of this kind of laws in Sweden and in Norway lets think the opponents that a regulation approach must be studied, rather that a stigmatizing one.

It is clear that both opposed camps have the same aim and objective: the abolition of the sexual slavery. Nevertheless, the evoked ways are subject to the controversy. In my humble opinion, the penalization of the customers will not destroy prostitution. Although I recognize moral virtues in this law, it is only disputing the expression of the problem and not its source. The foreign prostitutes would be the first victims of such a system. It is necessary to bring institutions (medical, judicial, economic) to them rather than to try to hide them. To penalize the customer would only “blur” the system, in the style of hostess bars in Japan. Try to legally distinguish deliberate prostitution from forced prostitution would be a first stage in the destruction of maffioso networks. Unfortunately trying to supervise legally the activities connected to human vices appears in our societies as a form of laxness. Seeing the reality such as it is would allow the improvement of our legal system, however it includes also to admit that prostitution cannot disappear.

References

Geert de Clercq, Reuters, “French debate: Punish prostitutes or their customers?

Tom Craig, Demotix, “French Prostitutes protest Law Penalizing Clients

Hanna Kozlowska, Foreign Policy Blog, “Frenchmen to government: ‘Don’t touch our whores!’”

Massoud Hayoun, Al Jazeera, “French sex workers demand open dialogue on proposal to fine clients

Elisabeth Lévy, Le Monde, “Les gardes roses du nouveau puritanisme

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