Sixty-three years after the Second World War ended, the Japanese Imperial Army’s “comfort women” are still fighting for justice despite their age.
BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008
Sixty-three years after the Second World War ended, the Japanese Imperial Army’s “comfort women” are still fighting for justice despite their age. They are reiterating their demand for the Japanese government to recognize its atrocities and to give the victims not only financial assistance. More importantly, they are asking the Japanese government to publicly apologize to the women who are still being haunted by their horrible past in order to restore their dignity.
Last Aug. 15, members of Lila Filipina and GABRIELA rallied in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila to commemorate – and remind the Japanese government of – the hostilities of the “imperialist” war, which claimed not only lives and the livelihood of the Filipino people during that time, but also the dignity of women, most of whom were very young then.
“The war may have ended more than half a century ago, but for many of the lolas (grandmothers), wartime is no different from so-called peacetime. They may have been violated and abused during the war, but until now they are being victimized by Japan’s unchanging stance and denial of justice,” said Retchilda Extremadura, Executive Director of Lila Pilipina, an organization of survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery and advocates of justice for women victims of foreign military sexual violence.
This author, once interviewed a survivor of the comfort women system four years ago and can still recall the sadness of that lola, who was raped almost nightly by soldiers from the Japanese imperial army. She was 14 then.
Extremadura is saddened for the said Philippine government’s accession by virtue of its continuing silence on the issue. She said, “It is very unfortunate that while other countries are backing the fight of the lolas, our very own government is caught with nary an observance of its responsibility to exercise political will in urging the Japanese government to finally recognize the violations it committed during World War II (WW2).”
The U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands, as well as the European Union, have already passed resolutions supporting the demands of Asian comfort women for justice. Even the Japanese Diet and the city councils of Takarazuka and Kiyose in Japan have also issued their support for the comfort women, but the Philippine government remains mum on the issue, said Extremadura.
From more than 170, the survivors’ numbers have been reduced to only 57.
“The Arroyo government has misplaced priorities on when and where to flex its political muscle. There is already a draft resolution filed in the Lower House calling for the Japanese government to formally apologize and accept responsibility over the comfort women case, but this has been shelved since April,” says Joms Salvador, GABRIELA’s spokesperson, in reference to House Resolution No. 124 filed by Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Reps. Liza Largoza-Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.
“It is utterly vile that instead of pushing Congress to immediately pass the resolution, the Arroyo administration would rather train its dogs on how to secure benefits for Arroyo’s own selfish interests by pushing for Charter change,” Salvador added.
No to another generation of comfort women
Since Japan did not abandon its militarist policies after the end of WWII and has regained its pre-war eminence in world politics, GABRIELA members fear that the resurgence of the U.S.-Japanese military alliance, which promotes foreign intervention, wars of aggression, and permanent military presence in foreign lands will be spawning another generation of comfort women.
“The military’s culture of sexism and violence that victimized the lolas continues to this day. Women are especially vulnerable to abuse during times of actual war and even with the mere presence of the military,” Salvador further said.
She cited as an example the case of the 19-year old “Hazel,” the Filipina who has been raped by a US soldier in Okinawa in February this year. Japanese prosecutors dropped the case in May.
Salvador said the Philippine government has not raised any diplomatic protest against the dropping of the case.
“Like in the case of the lolas, the Philippine government also wavers in its stance to seek justice for ‘Hazel,” she stressed.
“By continuing to turn a blind eye to the violence committed against its women by foreign troops, whether recent or in the past and by perpetuating its culture of subservience to foreign superpowers such as Japan and the US, the Philippine government serves as an accomplice to the sexual abuse of Filipinas everywhere,” Salvador said. Bulatlat