Domestic violence is not solely a Western phenomenon. As of June 2017, there were 72,455 cases reported in Japan [1A]. That set a new record. However, only 2.2% of the victims of spousal abuse there actually contact police.
A Private Matter
Japanese law does allow courts to issue restraining orders . However, domestic violence is largely viewed as a private matter.
In one survey, 58.2% of the 650 victims injured did not feel their problem warranted police help [1B]. Another 34.3% did not seek police intervention because they believed themselves partly at fault, while 22.3% felt police intervention would be pointless. Many did not recognize that they had been victimized.
Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking
Since the late 1980s, Japan has accepted migrants from Thailand and the Philippines through its entertainment industry visa program. Over 250,000 Filipinos work in Japan, the third-largest foreign population in the country.
“They bring in people and make them work. Their passports are taken away and they are told: ‘You owe us. We paid for your fare…And you have to pay us for your board and lodging.’ ”
-Darna (not her real name), Filipino migrant worker [3A]
Unfortunately, many migrant women are drawn toward work in bars, but wind up as exotic dancers or forced into prostitution. Children of mixed race are often bullied in school because they are not Japanese.
Initially, migrants were excluded from legal protection against domestic violence. In Kawasaki, the Kalakasan Migrant Women Empowerment Center (founded by Maryknoll Sister Margaret Lacson) lobbied to correct this.
Kalakasan means “strength” in the Filipino language. The Center offers migrant women crisis intervention, as well as follow-up care [3B].
“Before, they were told, ‘You’re useless. You’re nothing.’ And now they see that they’re able to work, manage their money, raise their children by themselves.”
-Sister Margaret Lacson [3C]
Some women need years to recover. But the path is now open to them.
[1A and 1B] Nippon, “Only A Fraction of Domestic Violence Victims Contact the Police”, 8/27/18, https://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00269/only-a-fraction-of-domestic-violence-victims-contact-the-police.html.
 We News, “Japan Adopts Tough Domestic Violence Law” by Melinda Rice, 12/2/01, https://womensenews.org/2001/12/japan-adopts-tough-domestic-violence-law/.
[3A, 3B and 3C] Maryknoll Magazine, “Victims No More” by David Aquije, March/April 2020, pp. 34-38.
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