Civil society strongly condemns Osaka Mayor Hashimoto’s remarks on “Comfort Women”
The following is a joint NGO statement, released in relation to Osaka mayor Hashimoto’s recent remarks on “comfort women”.
Joint NGO Statement Immediate Release, May 23, 2013
Civil society strongly condemns Mayor Hashimoto’s recent remark on “Comfort Women”.
1. Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka and a co-leader of the Japan Restoration Association, a political party with over 50 lawmakers in Parliament, remarked on May 13 that the “comfort women” for the Japanese Army during World War II were “necessary” in maintaining discipline in the army and providing relief for soldiers. “When soldiers are risking their lives by running through storms of bullets, and you want to give these emotionally charged mass of fighters a rest somewhere, everyone understands that a comfort women system was necessary,” he said to reporters. He also claimed that there was no proof that the Japanese authorities had forced women into servitude.
We, the undersigned international and Asian NGOs, as well as NGOs from other regions strongly condemn these outrageous comments as an attempt to defend egregious violations of women’s human rights in the name of necessity.
2. So- called Comfort Women, are those who were victimized for widespread and systematic sexual violence at “comfort stations” or other facility in Asian regions by the former Japanese Military during World War II. The victims consisted of women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Netherlands and many other countries or regions. The victims were detained and forcibly subjected to continuous rape and other sexual exploitation by Japanese soldiers. Relentless violence was used, especially when women resisted, including beatings, stabbings and burnings. Coupled with the appalling conditions of detention, a large number of women lost their lives. Since the practice was completely against human dignity, survivors have suffered grave distress both physically and psychologically for decades. As the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, and another independent UN expert correctly found, the reality of the “comfort women” system was nothing less than military “sexual slavery”.
Wartime rape, sexual slavery and forced prostitution are recognized as grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court explicitly stipulates “sexual slavery” and “forced prostitution” as war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is obvious that the comfort women system constitutes grave human rights violations against international law and thus should never be justified and endorsed. Hashimoto’s remark is causing further pain and distress among the survivors. We demand Mr. Hashimoto withdraw his remark immediately and publicly apologize to the survivors.
3. More disturbingly, Hashimoto’s remark denying the forcible nature of the practice is not an isolated incident but an echo of the 2007 decision of the cabinet under the first administration of Shinzo ABE to that effect, which claimed that “so far there is no evidence of forcible mobilization of the comfort women by the military or police.”
The Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei KONO on the Result of the Study on the Issue of “Comfort Women” (4 August 1993) already officially admitted that “[t]he recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative / military personnel directly took part in the recruitment”. A number of court judgments in Japan also clearly found the forcible nature of the practice of comfort women. In addition, many survivors and witnesses testified in public, including to the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal that they were enslaved by abduction or other types of force, including official conscription, arrest, intimidation and violence by soldiers,. There are no grounds whatsoever to deny the forcible nature of the comfort women practice.
Despite the gravity of human rights violations, Japan has failed to provide effective remedy, including compensation, genuine apology or satisfactory measures to the survivors, and the ABE administration even attempted to deny the forcible nature of the practice by maintaining and publicly stating the above mentioned 2007 cabinet decision. Such an attitude has been widely criticized by UN human rights bodies such as the Human Rights Committee, the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee against Torture (CAT) as well as the Human Rights Council UPR working groups. A public disclosure of the truth and a public apology, including an acknowledgment of the facts, is especially crucial for the victims of the “comfort women” system whose sufferings have been unduly neglected for decades.
Therefore, we demand that the Japanese government officially condemn the remark made by Mr. Hashimoto and unequivocally reaffirm the fact that the comfort women practice was forcible in nature and constituted grave human rights violations.
eath Penalty Campaign (SADPC) (Singapore)