Books & Films to Learn about Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Vol. 8 “THE LAST GIRL: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State”

Nadia Murad’s book – THE LAST GIRL: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State is informative regarding the culture, landscape, faith and life of the Yazidi people. For that alone it was definitely a book worth reading. This powerfully true story relates the disturbing account of the brutality of Murad’s captivity as a sex slave, her loss of family and friends, and her courage to survive. The descriptions of her abuse and her courage in the face of that abuse were palpable. Murad’s struggle to survive reflects the faith of the Yazidi people that sustained her throughout the unbelievably inhuman ordeal. 

As sad and shocking as the evil perpetrated on Murad and all the victims of the genocide was, there is an uplifting quality as well in the courage shown by those at risk of their own safety who helped them escape. I encourage you to read this extraordinary story of a deeply inspiring young woman who has not only survived sexual slavery, but has pledged her life to help others overcome this evil. (Kathy Burton-Lewis)

(Written by Nadia Murad, Published in 2017 by Tim Duggan Books, 320p., $17.00 (paperback)
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/555106/the-last-girl-by-nadia-murad/ )

 

Vol. 7 “Disposable Foreigners: Japan as a Country of Immigrants without Human Rights” (tentative English title)

*This book is not translated in English yet.

“I’m so grateful to have this man in Japan!” Shoichi Ibusuki is one of those people who makes you feel this way. Although not mentioned in the book, he became involved in labor union activities when he was still a student and became a lawyer out of necessity (and he’s taken the bar exam 17 times!). He is an activist at heart and a hero of justice.

Although the title of this book, published just this year by Mr. Ibusuki, is provocative, the text is an easy-to-read introduction to the problems of foreign nationals, spelling out the facts in a straightforward and concise manner. Even so, the book makes my hands tremble with indignation at such irresponsible and inhuman practices in companies and organizations, as well as at the government for allowing them to go unchecked: “300 yen per hour” for technical interns, “98% of interns fail to report violations of the Labor Standards Act,” “raped by the president more than 50 times,” “interns forced to return to their home countries through use of violence and threats,” “discrimination against Muslims,” and so on.

The first half of the book explains the problem of exploitation of foreign workers, citing cases in which the author was involved as a lawyer. However, in the second half of the book, Ibusuki talks about human rights violations by the Immigration Services Agency, which he describes as “even worse and more desperate than the problem of interns.”

Even refugees who have escaped persecution in their home countries and apply for asylum are treated as illegal aliens. If they disobey deportation orders, they are detained in prison-like immigration facilities. Even if they are granted provisional release, they have no idea when they will be detained again. The detention is indefinite and prolonged, with people suffering physical and mental illnesses, attempting suicide out of despair, and even dying from hunger strikes in protest. The agency practices harsh behavior such as placing dozens of people on chartered planes and “deporting” them back to their home countries. But as the mass-repatriation is costly, their strategy is to prolong detention, so that detainees will lose patience and return home at their own expense. I think this immigration policy, which does not recognize human rights for foreigners, is a particularly ruthless one in Japan.

True multicultural coexistence cannot be achieved without seeing people as people. In order for Japan to regain respect in the international community, it cannot remain as a “country of immigrants without human rights”. I would like to recommend this book to many people as a reminder of this fact. (Mariko Yamaoka)

(Written by Shoichi Ibusuki, Published in 2020 by Choyokai, 136p, 1,000yen+tax, https://www.gov-book.or.jp/book/detail.php?product_id=352320)

Vol. 6 “The Price of Free” (Film)

A group of men run through the crowded streets of India. They break into one building, climb the stairs, pry open the locks and search the rooms. “Not here!”, “Where are they?” The shouting voices resound. They run up the stairs to the roof where so many bags are piled up. Finally, they find children hidden in the piles, as if crushed.

Opening like an action film, “The Price of Free” is a documentary about the work of Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, for rescuing more than 80,000 children from slave labor. 

The film also shows Bal Ashram, a rehabilitation center that provides children with mental and physical care and opportunities to study, leading to their reintegration into society. It is a relief to watch children who were initially frightened and crying, had been beaten or injured at work, or were very skinny because of insufficient meals at factories, regain their health and smiles.

On the other hand, the film shows that rescuing children from slavery is always an extremely dangerous activity. For example, undercover investigations reveal the dark schemes of human traffickers; Kailash and his family receive threats; and corruption is everywhere–the sheer scale of evil powers stand in the way of rescue efforts. Nevertheless, Kailash does not give up, saying passionately, “We need a whole range of approaches.”

How can we stand in solidarity with Kailash and his team?  I would suggest you examine carefully the products that the children are making in the film. After watching it, ask yourself if you will choose products like those shown in the film. This will naturally change your purchasing behavior. There are things we do today, as Kailash says in the film, “to ensure that every child enjoys freedom in his/her childhood”. (Nozomi Kuriyama)

(Directed by Derek Doneen, Released in 2018, 87 min., Available for free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsqKz1hd_CY
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S01crxKPeM0 )

Vol.5 “Reportage: The Factories of Despair in Japan” (tentative English title)

*This book is not available in English.

It didn’t take me long to finish reading this book. Although dealing with the issue of “modern slavery” on a daily basis, I knew almost nothing about the reality that had been happening in Japan, or even right next to me…I was quite shocked by my own ignorance. While issues on foreign technical intern trainees have gained more media attention recently, problems surrounding foreign students are scarcely reported. Yet, according to the author, some foreign students (called “disguised foreign students” in the book) face much more severe conditions than technical intern trainees.     

Furthermore, I could not understand the contradictory situation of caregivers and nurses from the Philippines and Indonesia, who had come to Japan through the EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) and expected to solve Japan’s labor shortage, yet eventually had to go home in disappointment because they could not pass the national exams for qualification. Reading this book gave me the answer: after all, this confusion was caused by irresponsible, selfish politicians and government officials.

With all these stakeholders, who seek immediate results, place their own profit as top priority, and selfishly act to skim the cream off, I wonder how can a migrant worker policy result in success? If we hold on to unfair policies to take advantage of the foreign labor force, sooner or later, no one would come to Japan even if we plead with people abroad. Or, this might be already happening. Sadly, it may be the fault of Japanese society that more and more foreigners who came here originally with dreams, feel deceived and resentments build day by day. Is this the situation we really want? 

The word “Despair” in the title was probably intended to refer to the feelings of exploited foreign workers. However, after reading this book, I could not help but think that the word refers to our own despair towards our government and our own future as taxpayers. The one feeling desperate towards this country is not a foreign worker, but myself. (Mariko Yamaoka)  【*This review was originally written in 2016】

(Written by Yasuhiro Idei, Published in 2016 by Kobunsha (+α Shinsho), 192p, 840yen+tax, https://bookclub.kodansha.co.jp/product?item=0000202016

 

Vol.4 “Underground Life of High School Girls: Girls Living in Relationship Poverty” (tentative English title)

Unfortunately for English readers this book is published only in Japanese, but it’s imperative to introduce it.  Ms. Nito is director of the NGO Colabo which supports high school girls who wander about cities, having lost their connection to others (family, friends and/or schools). 

In this book you will find girls getting caught in a so-called false safety net and easily being exploited in the JK (joshikosei=high school girls) industry.  One of the services called “JK osampo”, walking with a high school girl, has been identified as a typical trafficking case in the Trafficking in Persons Report in 2014 by US Department of State. 

From this book you can learn about the actual condition of trafficking happening today right in front of our eyes. (Nozomi Kuriyama)

(Written by Yumeno Nito, Published in 2014 by Kobunsha (Shinsho), 264p, 760yen+tax, https://www.kobunsha.com/shelf/book/isbn/9784334038144

Vol. 3 “Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids” (Film)

This documentary follows in the steps of professional New York-based photographer Zana Briski who travels to Kolkata, India (Calcutta) to photograph women in red-light districts. While there, she befriended the children of sex workers and gave them cameras. The children were given cameras so they could learn photography and possibly improve their lives. The documentary presents the children’s perspective and highlights their experiences growing up in the red light district, highlighting how many of the children are destined to become sex workers themselves. 

The non-profit organisation Kids With Cameras (as of January 2011, this non-profit organisation merged with a new non-profit, Kids With Destiny, which continues operation in India as of Dec. 2013) helped produce this film and coordinate these efforts.

Though this documentary does not address human trafficking directly, it serves as a wake-up call for the conditions that trafficked individuals live in and opens our eyes to a new issue: What happens to those whom have been affected by trafficking indirectly? (Sonny S.)

(Directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, released in 2004, 85 minutes. Available at Amazon Prime Video:  https://www.amazon.com/Born-into-Brothels-Avijit-Halder/dp/B07VLT8MYV
Trailer:
http://www.simplecinemafilms.com/born_into_brothels)

Vol.2 “30 Ways to Protect Child Rights Around the World: Leave No One Behind!”

Vol.2 “30 Ways to Protect Child Rights Around the World: Leave No One Behind!”
(tentative English title)

*This book is not available in English.

This book was published in October 2019, the year of two milestones: 30 years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations and 25 years after the Japanese government ratified it. 

The book presents 30 approaches for empowering children to learn about problems and try to find solutions. It introduces each authors’ efforts to protect child rights and livelihoods in various fields with specific examples. 

The first chapter discusses human trafficking presenting cases of girls from Cambodia to Japan (JK Business). Premature marriage, child labor, and other issues facing children are also dealt with from a variety of angles, making this book an invaluable resource for understanding global issues and learning about one’s rights.       

I was involved in the publication project of this book as an illustrator. I drew each illustration with children around the world in mind and with the hope that the problems mentioned in the book will not be carried over to the next generation. I hope you will pick up a copy of this book and read it for yourself.  (Namura Michiyo)

(Edited by Japan International Center for the Rights of the Child and Machiko Kaida,  Published in 2019 by Godo-Shuppan, 176p, 1,800yen+tax, https://www.godo-shuppan.co.jp/book/b475263.html

 

Vol. 1 “OVERDRESSED:The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” 

When exactly did one’s clothing, even though not necessarily one’s favorite item, but of mediocre quality for the price asked, become so popular in the world? 

The first half of this book, mentioning a number of  brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, and H&M, introduces the mechanism of the American apparel industry that has been dominated by fast fashion. 

The reports of visits to apparel factories in Bangladesh and China are interesting, but the latter half of the book is the best part that describes how the author’s thinking has changed from “I want to avoid exploitation, but cannot resist the inexpensiveness.” As to how she broke away from the “depression in the closet,” please read the book and find out! 

In the afterword, she says that she wrote not only about fast fashion, ie clothing, but also about the general societal tendency to prefer anything to be “faster and cheaper”. She also writes that the distance between producers and consumers is one of the causes of the exploitation. Rethinking the issue of exploitation, I realized that as we take time to imagine who is actually making our clothing and how it connects people, we discover a key to eradicating modern day slavery. (Nozomi Kuriyama)

(Written by Elizabeth L. Cline,  Published in 2012 by Portfolio, 244p, $12.00 (paperback), https://www.elizabethclinebooks.com/overdressed)