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Anti-trafficking plan targets fake nuptials in Japan

December 7, 2004

Japan wants to get off rights 'watch list' with stricter laws.

Tokyo intends to crack down on sham marriages as part of its plan to eradicate the human trafficking of foreign women, sources said over the weekend.

The comprehensive action plan is scheduled to be worked out by the end of this month.

Fake marriages are one way foreign women, especially those from developing countries, are brought to Japan and forced to work in the sex industry.

Other main points in the government's plan will include measures to help human-trafficking victims return to their home countries, the sources added.

But there will be no measures to set up shelters that specialize in protecting those victims, they said.

Instead, such women will be shuttled off to regular domestic-violence shelters, which critics say will overburden that system.

In June, the U.S. State Department's annual report on human trafficking said Japan's measures against human trafficking were insufficient.

It put Japan on the ``Tier 2 Watch List'' and said Japan was a destination for Asian, Latin American and Eastern European women trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation.

Japan must now make new laws or revise its current laws in order to ratify the international human-trafficking prevention agreement.

To do so, the government has already asked the Legislative Council, an advisory panel, to examine revisions to the Criminal Code. The planned revisions are included in the main points of the government' action plan.

However, revisions of the Criminal Code alone are apparently insufficient to completely eradicate the trafficking.

Therefore, several other measures, not only those for the prevention of sham marriages but also those to introduce stricter standards for the issuance of entertainment visas for singers and dancers, will be included in the plan.

Meanwhile, the government wants to enlist the help of the human-trafficking victims to arrest members of international crime syndicates engaged in the sex trade.

To make the victims more willing, the government plans to offer them support for their return to their home countries. The support measures will include referring the victims to international aid organizations.

On the other hand, the government does not plan to set up shelters specifically for human-trafficking victims. Instead, it plans to accommodate the victims in government-run domestic-violence shelters or strengthen cooperation with privately run shelters for foreign women.

However, an official at a government-run shelter said: ``We are now at full capacity with domestic-violence victims. If we are also required to accommodate human-trafficking victims, we will have to increase the number of staffers, including interpreters.''

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