The victims, euphemistically known as ‘Comfort Women,’ have built an international network and are supported by the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-International and more. The demands of the international community and the victims are the following:
- Full acknowledgement of the military sexual slavery implemented by the Imperial Armed Forces of Japan between 1932 to 1945
- Thorough and complete investigation to fully chronicle the scope of the crime
- Formal apology from the National Assembly (Diet) of Japan
- Legal and full reparations to all victims
- Prosecution of the criminals responsible for the crime
- Full and ongoing education through proper recording and acknowledgement in textbooks and history books in Japan
- Building of memorials and museums to commemorate the victims and preserve the history of sexual slavery by the Japanese Military
There have been a few apologies offered by the Government of Japan, including the Kono Statement in 1993, a landmark apology made by Yohei Kono, then Chief Cabinet Secretary. However, several Japanese right-wing leaders, led by the current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are trying to deny and evade Japanese government’s responsibility for its wartime military sexual slavery. Before starting his second term as Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe was listed as one of the “assentors” in an advertisement in a U.S. newspaper denying that Japan’s military coerced young girls and women into sexual slavery. This directly contradicts both the Kono Statement and the Murayama Statement which acknowledged the Japanese Government’s culpability.
Abe’s repeated actions of sending offerings to the Yasukuni Shrine where the spirits of 14 ‘Class A’ war criminals are revered as gods, is causing much friction with Japan’s neighboring countries. In the wake of the Asahi Shimbun’s retraction of the articles containing one soldier’s testimony, Abe’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga demanded the deletion or revision of the UN “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its causes and Consequences” written by Ms. Radhika Cooomaraswamy in accordance with the Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1994/45. The recent request by the Japanese Government to the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company in the U.S. to change passages contained in its history textbook about ‘Comfort Women’ was another blatant attempt to whitewash and rewrite Japan’s past war crimes. The publisher rightfully rejected the request saying, “Scholars are aligned behind historical fact of ‘Comfort Women,’ and we unequivocally stand behind the writing, research and presentation of our authors.”
The sincerity of an apology can be gauged only by the actions following the words. In Germany, it is not only a policy to teach children about the atrocities committed against the Jewish people during the Holocaust, but it is also unconstitutional to deny the Holocaust, and denying it is punishable by law. Seventy years after the end of WWII, Germans are still searching for and prosecuting war criminals who cooperated with the Nazis during WWII. Unless Japan brings those responsible for its war crimes of institutionalized sexual slavery to justice, condemn the 14 ‘Class A’ war criminals, and punish those who deny the coercive nature of the recruitment and involvement of its Government, it is not possible to believe that Japan is sincere in its apology.
In order to atone for this unconscionable crime committed against the victims, the least the Japanese Government can do is to issue an unequivocal apology from its highest level, and provide reparations for the victims and their bereaved families. The amount should be such that any reasonable person would deem appropriate had his own daughter been forced into sexual slavery.
Waiting it out for all the remaining victims pass away will not exonerate Japan from its responsibilities. Japan must take steps to implement the above 7 demands now.