Prostitution lure grows

20th August 2004 at 01:00
Japan

As new textbooks advocating abstinence, not condoms, are set to enter classrooms across America, TES correspondents look at three countries' approaches to sex education, teenage sex and morality

Every weekday, 14-year-old Junko Satoh is forced to wear the look that throws the nation into moral turmoil.

Cotton socks, loafers and prim navy suit - her school uniform - are highly provocative stuff for Japanese men wrestling with a Lolita complex, and children like Junko can be vulnerable to unpleasant groping assaults by unseen hands on crowded subways.

Schoolgirls in uniform are a national sexual obsession. And many have turned such interest into a means to make money, while educators seem powerless to prevent them.

Prostitution is big business in Japan. But only over the past 20 years has sex with minors - under 18s - become an issue. In the argot of the Japanese sex ("pink") trade, child prostitution is known as enjo kosai - "compensated dating".

Enko, to give it its street name, is when men, usually in their 40s or 50s, arrange to meet girls, usually middle or high-school age, for a date for which they will pay them around pound;100. According to the latest survey, in around 25 per cent of cases, men use the sexual services of their "dates".

"Teachers know that some of their female students are involved in enjo kosai. But they feel there is no way to stop it," said Jennifer Liddy, a teacher at Asahi Mura middle school in north-west Japan.

The introduction of sex education courses into the notoriously rigid Japanese curriculum is not enough, she said. "The girls are from middle-class homes, and show no guilt. They are not rebellious or trouble-makers so they are not easy to identify."

Shinji Miyadai, an authority on schoolgirls as sex objects and education professor at Tokyo Metropolitan university, said high-school girls are copying adults in living for money and high-image products. "No one has ever presented other values of the Japanese people."

Child prostitution cases grew by 10 per cent in six months this year, despite a new ban on soliciting of sex from, or by, those aged below 18 via online dating services. And the trend is towards ever-younger girls, police say.

The public was shocked last month when police in Kyoto broke up a prostitution ring involving 15 girls as young as 13, which allegedly amassed 3.5 billion yen (pound;17 million) during its three years of operation.

Masako Kihara, an expert on sex education at Kyoto university, said: "There is a lack of political leadership with regard to prevention and education, nor are there any mechanisms in schools for responding quickly and effectively when problems emerge."

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