Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Japan strengthens controls against human trafficking

AFP , TOKYO

Japan's Cabinet yesterday approved legislation to tighten controls on human trafficking as part of its efforts to counter global criticism that Tokyo is lax on the sex trade.

Sex businesses would be fined up to ?1 million (US$8,800) under the legislation if they employ foreign women without the right to work.

Currently there is no penalty.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet will soon send the bill to parliament, which is in session until Nov. 1, said a spokesman for the National Police Department.

Passage is virtually assured as Koizumi's coalition enjoys a strong majority after last month's election. The government could not pass the legislation in the last parliament before Koizumi dissolved it in August for the polls.

Japan has taken a series of measures against trafficking since the US last year put its close ally on a watch list of countries with serious problems.

Japan this year began tightening rules on "entertainer" visas often used to bring in sex slaves, despite protests from the Philippines which worried that legitimate workers would suffer.

In June parliament voted to make human trafficking a specific offense for the first time. The crime carries up to 10 years in prison for selling another person for sex, to take their organs or use them for other commercial purposes. The law also allows authorities to jail a buyer for up to five years and grants victims of trafficking special permits so they will not immediately be deported.

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