Japan exhibition puts child prostitution in the limelight
By Kento Sahara
TOKYO (Reuters) - "At that moment, I understood what it means to feel like I'd rather die," wrote a young Japanese woman, recalling the trauma she suffered as a pre-teen, over having sex with a man to earn funds to repay what she thought was a debt.
The testimonial was part of an exhibit, including photos and artwork, in the Japanese capital that sheds light on an underground industry known as "enjo kosai", or compensated dating, where men pay girls for dates that often lead to sex.
Japanese men's fascination with high-school girls fuels demand for such services, and exhibit organizer Yumeno Nito said many people have the wrong idea about the girls themselves.
The mere use of the word "compensated" implies the girls seek fun and money, rather than being victims of sexual trafficking, said Nito, who heads a non-profit organization, Colabo, that provides support to such young women.
"There is a notion the girls are guilty because they willingly sold their bodies," she said, adding that the phrase "compensated dating" was unique to Japan.
The age of consent for women is 13 years in Japan, although there can be exceptions.
It is the girls' youthfulness, poverty and naivety that make them vulnerable to abuse, Nito said.
"I started so I could escape mundane daily life," wrote another young woman, who lied about her age to get a job accompanying older men on walks, or "JK osanpo", as it is known. The job soon escalated into touching and kissing, wrote the woman, who later went to work at a brothel for higher pay. Continued...