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Japan NPO urges sex workers in trouble to seek help to prevent tragedies

Staff members of the nonprofit organization "Futerasu" are seen in this photo provided by the group.

OSAKA -- A nonprofit organization in Japan has been calling on sex workers in trouble to contact it to prevent tragedies such as giving birth without talking to anyone and abandoning unwanted babies. Similar cases of isolation are not uncommon, and efforts to support women are spreading.

    A 28-year-old woman who had been accused of abandoning the body of her baby after an unwanted pregnancy confessed at her trial that she did not know who to talk to. She was earning her living through sex work and became pregnant by a client, and gave birth alone without seeing an obstetrician.

    The Osaka District Court on Sept. 26, 2022, handed down a sentence of one year and six months in prison, suspended for three years, for abandoning the corpse. When Judge Rina Takahashi admonished the woman and told her to take care of herself, she gave a small nod. The woman did not appeal, and her sentence was finalized.

    According to the ruling, she left a paper bag containing the body of her infant she had given birth to in a coin-operated locker in the city of Osaka's Chuo Ward in June 2022. The woman, a native of Hokkaido, had been moving from hotel to hotel in Osaka since April 2021 while working as a prostitute. She became pregnant after a client refused to use contraception, and gave birth alone in a hotel room in April 2022. The baby was dead at birth.

    During questioning of the accused, she revealed that she had not consulted with anyone about her pregnancy and had not seen an obstetrician due to financial reasons. She said in a voice barely audible, "I feel so sorry for my baby. I will make offerings every day and do my best to lead a decent life."

    Shingo Sakatsume, 41, representative director of Niigata-based nonprofit organization "Futerasu," expressed his concern, saying, "Such a case is just the tip of the iceberg. Many people are isolated because they are unable to seek advice."

    The organization has been listening to the concerns of women working in the sex industry and connecting them to relevant bodies such as administrative agencies and lawyers. It has been offering free consultation meetings since 2015, and also accepts consultations via Twitter and the Line free messaging app. The counseling covers a wide range of issues, including debt, problems with clients, sexual violence and pregnancy.

    According to Futerasu, there were 874 consultations in 2019, but in 2020, the number reached a record high of 2,929 due to a string of people losing their jobs as a result of the spread of the coronavirus. In 2022, a preliminary figure of 2,267 consultations were received.

    Some people are apparently hesitant to seek help because they fear that their parents or others will find out that they have been working in the sex trade. Sakatsume said, "We will keep your secret. Please feel free to consult with us instead of keeping your concerns to yourself."

    Consultations can be made through Futerasu's website at

    (Japanese original by Kosuke Yamamoto, Osaka City News Department)

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