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Sex Workers in Japan

July 7, 2022

Mio Murata

Do you know sex workers? They are engaged in the sex industry, such as prostitution and the porn business. The sex industry is one of the industries that has been making significant sales.

According to the Prostitution Revenue Ranking published by Havoscope, an American company analyzing the global illicit trading company, Japan ranked in third place with a revenue of $24 billion, following China and Spain.

It shows that Japan surely is a major sex industry country in the world. Despite the size of the business, sex workers have been discriminated for a long time.

copyright: Kazukihiro

Kabukicho, a famous nightlife district in Japan with about 250 sexual service establishments.

Violence Against Sex Workers

Violence against sex workers continues endlessly. It is said that 40% to 70% of sex workers have experienced some form of violence within one year of employment. It includes rape, stalking by their customers and other sexual violence.

To our surprise, there even are acts of violence by the police officers. Female rape victims are often blamed for being victimized because of their exposing clothes and walking out late at night. They often accused that since they drank alcohol together with a guy, it is no wonder that he may think they were consenting to sex.”

Not only is the high level of violence against sex workers a major problem, but also the fact that women victims of sexual violence are often blamed for it is serious issue.

Discrimination Revealed by COVID-19 Pandemic

In Japan, COVID-19 also revealed discrimination against the sex industry. The government made a policy of providing benefits to save businesses that had run into financial difficulties due to the pandemic.

However, it left sex industry businesses out of the program. As a result, a sex industry owner sued the government and two companies that handle the administration of the benefits.

As this example shows, the government discriminates against this work, despite its commitment to eliminating discrimination. This is an example of indirect violence by society.

What Kind of People Works as Sex Workers?

How did their working as sex workers come to be so? Of course, some people may prefer to work there. On the other hand, some people work there because they are forced to do so.

There must be a wide range of reasons for this: college students living on their own, people in need of money, and so on. However, some people do that work without wishing to, because of unreasonable exploitation.

The unreasonable exploitation never stops. Typically, those who dream of model-like entertainment industry are sometimes forced to perform in adult videos after they are signed up with an office. In other cases, some rape victims work prostitution to heal the trauma.

In a Vogue Book Club interview, a journalist, Renge Jibu, talks with a woman who has been a victim of rape in the past and is now working in the sex industry. She says "in her case, prostitution is a critical step in recovering from rape. It is an attempt to regain what she lost by violence.”

Opinions Differ Among Feminists

Among feminists, each has a different opinion. Broadly speaking, those opinions can be categorized into three factions.

The first is the "anti-sex industry" faction, which believes that the sex industry itself should be abolished and women should be protected. Next, the second is the "victims of society" faction, which believes that sex workers have serious problems and should be rescued. Finally, the third group is the "decriminalization" faction, which believes that sex work itself is not the problem but its working environment.

In these factions, the "decriminalization" faction makes the most sense. we should not discriminate against anyone for any reason. How come you think sex workers do bad things? There is no need for them to be unreasonably discriminated against in their profession.

The problem of sex workers is also a problem not only in Japan but in the world. Why don't you think about it once?


Sex Work Studies: Gender and Labor Thinking from a Participant Perspective Author: SWASH





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