I spoke to my wife last night about some of the things I’d learned from the research I did yesterday. I began the conversation by asking her about her perceptions on the sex industry.
Where do prostitutes in Japan come from? My wife (a.k.a. Mrs. P) had assumed they were mostly Russian.
How or why do they come to work in Japan? According to Mrs. P, “Japan is like Heaven” and other countries are dangerous. It’s safer for prostitutes to work here because Japanese people are so kind hearted, unlike their home countries where their customers might hit them. Also, they can make a lot more money in Japan and become rich.
When I give my wife my opinion on something, she’ll usually come up with some argument to counter it. For example, I once told her that I wanted to build a house with a steel frame, so she told me that steel is too expensive and more dangerous during earthquakes. I regularly meet people who behave in the same way; you tell them something and they counter with what they think sounds like a reasonable explanation, even though they don’t really know what they’re talking about. Luckily, I was able to show Mrs. P a Japanese website which explained that building with steel costs about the same as building with wood and that it’s safer during earthquakes, along with other environmental benefits. Afterwards, she was perfectly happy to tell anyone who would listen that steel frame houses are better than wooden houses.
When I told Mrs. P that many prostitutes in Japan come from China, Taiwan, Korea and Southeast Asia, she didn’t seem too surprised. When I told her that many may have been tricked into coming here by being promised a different kind of job, she was very surprised. When I explained that they’re told that they assumed a debt by travelling to Japan which they must pay off through prostitution, she was speechless. I was caught off guard by the absence of a counter-argument, even when I said that these women are threatened and abused so that they don’t try to escape.
Next, I told her that Japanese prostitutes may also have been tricked into debt bondage. Still no resistance. I wondered what would make her crack and come up with excuses to explain why I was wrong.
I began to direct the conversation towards the area of child prostitution. Mrs. P didn’t know what the age of consent is in Japan and, surprisingly, didn’t know about compensation dating. When I said that the law prohibits the production and distribution of child pornography, yet allows possession, she was shocked. When I said that some of the children can be as young as 3 years of age, she made a noise that was somewhere between a gasp and a scream.
No counter-argument because she didn’t want to believe that what I was saying could be true. No blank gaze from switching off because she found the issues too boring. This isn’t what I’d expected. I’m not saying that my wife is a bad person and that I’d expected her to believe that there’s nothing wrong with human trafficking or child sex abuse – it’s just normal for me to encounter people, including my wife, who will put up resistance when they’re informed of something new (such as steel frame houses). After all, I’d told her some pretty damning things about what’s happening in her country only a few minutes after she’d said “Japan is like Heaven”.
What I really, really didn’t anticipate was the fact that Mrs. P then began to contribute to the conversation by telling me of how it used to be common for poor people in Japan to sell their children to become labourers or sex workers, once upon a time. She also said that she doesn’t think that Japanese people are aware that the law doesn’t criminalise the possession of child pornography, that the police and lawmakers refute any correlation between simulated child sex exploitation and actual real life abuse, or that the term ‘prostitution’ is so narrowly defined in this country that it is permissible by law for many sexual acts may be sold commercially.
I now feel very positive that change may be effected if the public are properly informed about human trafficking and the obstacles faced by the people trying to eradicate it. We don’t live in Heaven, but maybe Heaven is on its way.