Vietnamese trainees told to undergo contraception to work in Japan, survey shows

Some female Vietnamese technical trainees have received contraception treatments based on instructions by organisations involved in a Japan internship programme, a Kyodo News survey revealed on Sunday, with the practice raising concerns that such trainees’ reproductive rights were not respected.

The Japanese government is considering scrapping the current technical internship programme for foreigners, which began in 1993 to transfer knowledge and skills to developing countries. It plans to create a new programme taking into account the problems and rights violations observed under the current system, including issues such as unpaid wages and harassment.

According to a recent survey conducted via a support group for Vietnamese trainees in Japan, nine women were advised by local intermediary organisations, which gather trainee candidates and send them to Japan, to undergo contraceptive treatment. Five of them actually received such treatments, which included the use of internal birth control rings, the survey showed.

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Vietnam sends the largest number of technical trainees to Japan under the programme, according to the Organization for Technical Intern Training.

In many cases, the intermediary organisations advised Vietnamese trainees that they would be sent home if they got pregnant.

The five Vietnamese trainees who underwent contraception treatment currently work in Japan, with one of them expressing in the survey that she thought she could not go to Japan without following the instruction.

The other four trainees who did not receive contraception treatments cited its cost, among other reasons.

There have been cases involving Vietnamese trainees in recent years in Japan. One case involved a female trainee who was arrested for abandoning her baby’s body out of fear her employer would send her home if the pregnancy were discovered.

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Under Japanese law, which ensures equal employment opportunity for men and women, improper treatment of workers due to pregnancy and childbirth is prohibited, and foreign workers are entitled to receive benefits such as childbirth and childcare lump sum allowances, prenatal and postnatal leave, and childcare leave.

However, the survey highlighted that foreign trainees’ reproductive rights, which allow them to decide whether to have and raise a child, have not been taken seriously under the current system.

“It is a problem if contraceptive treatment is provided without the consent of the person,” said an official of Japan’s Immigration Services Agency, adding people should not be treated unfairly due to pregnancy and childbirth regardless of nationality.

The survey, conducted between August and September last year, covered current and former Vietnamese trainees and received responses from 59 of them.

Of the respondents, 36 said they had been instructed by intermediary organizations to avoid pregnancy.

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Jiho Yoshimizu, representative of the non-profit organisation involved in the survey, said it is questionable whether trainees have truly been able to choose contraception of their own volition.

“It is a problem from a humanitarian perspective that foreign workers’ dating, marriage and pregnancy are restricted because of Japan’s inadequate system to accept them,” Yoshimizu said.

Under the internship programme, foreign trainees can suspend their training when they get pregnant or give birth and return to it later.

If training is terminated against a trainee’s will due to pregnancy or childbirth, their employers and supervising organisations will be subject to disciplinary actions based on the law to protect technical intern trainees.

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