[Editorial] Testimonies prove “comfort women” recruited by force

October 9, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

Newly disclosed National Archives documents expose the details of hideous acts by the Imperial Japanese Army in trampling on the human rights of women. The documents include the judicial records of nine Japanese military officers and civilians convicted by a provisional military tribunal set up by the Netherlands in Jakarta in the former Dutch East Indies. In 1944, during the war, they took 35 Dutch women detained in a camp on Java Island in Indonesia by force to serve as so-called comfort women for Japanese soldiers. The National Archives disclosed the documents to a civic group.

The Japanese military selected the women at the camp and took them to four “comfort stations” where they were made to provide sex. The documents include vivid testimonies of the officers who forced the women to become objects for Japanese soldiers to vent their sexual frustrations on. Some officers said in their testimonies, “We asked the chief of the provincial police to select women at the camp for brothels,” “The women were brought out by provincial officials at the request of (an officer’s name),” and “The women were not told about the work they would be doing until they arrived at the brothels.”

The roughly 530 pages of documents include the background evidence used for then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono’s statement in 1993. In the statement, Japan acknowledged and apologized for its military’s involvement in the recruitment of women into sexual servitude. The documents are sufficiently reliable to prove that the military forced women into sexual slavery.

Jan Ruff-O’Herne, a victim of the Japanese military, spoke at a university in Australia in 2008. She said: “I was taken out of the prison camp by the Japanese and put in a brothel for the Japanese military to become a so-called ‘comfort woman,’ a euphemism for a military sex slave.

And so, you live with this fear. I still have nightmares. I had one miscarriage in the brothel and another three miscarriages afterwards, after I got married, because my body was just so broken.”

The Japanese Army’s sinful behavior is encapsulated in her excruciatingly painful experiences. Her testimony that the Japanese military took her and other women away, deprived them of their freedom and forced them into sexual servitude for Japanese soldiers, resulting in her and others becoming physically sick, needs to be taken seriously. The appearance of dissenting opinions in Japan has hurt the former comfort women. Such opinions tend to focus only on whether or not there was direct use of physical force or threats by the Japanese military.

However, separate to the controversy over the issue of coercion by the military, the international community has taken a firm stance on sexual violence in wartime. That the Japanese military drove women into sexual servitude causes a feeling of repulsion. How would you feel if your daughter were placed in that situation? Thinking from the viewpoint of ordinary people, we need to understand how sternly the international community views Japan on the comfort women issue. Twenty years have passed since the Kono Statement. Evidence pointing towards coercion by the military has appeared repeatedly. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has suggested that he might revise the Kono statement. Now is the time for Abe to declare to the international community that he does not intend to review the Kono Statement.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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