The European Parliament has adopted a resolution on survivors of Japan’s military sexual slavery system (the so-called ‘comfort women’ system), which urges the Government of Japan to acknowledge, apologize and compensate the victims.
Thousands of women, known as ‘comfort women’, were officially commissioned by the Government of Japan from the 1930s through the duration of the Second World War for sexual servitude for the armed forces. The full extent of the sexual slavery system has never been fully disclosed by the Government of Japan though it is thought that as many as 200,000 women were enslaved. To this day, the Government of Japan has refused to acknowledge its responsibility for the crimes committed against former ‘comfort women’.
The ‘comfort women’ system of forced military prostitution allowed for a range of abuses, such as sexual violence including gang rape and forced abortions, in one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century. Many of the women are now in their 80s and hoping that justice can still be achieved in their lifetime and have been courageously speaking out and sharing their experiences.
Gil Won Ok, 79, was born in what is now North Korea. When she was 13 she was promised factory work, but eventually found herself in a comfort station in northeast China where she worked as a ‘comfort woman’. Gil caught syphilis and developed tumors during her work as a ‘comfort woman’ and eventually, a Japanese military doctor removed her uterus leaving her unable to bear children.
Gil, who broke her silence in 1998, 53 years after her traumatic experience, recently gave testimony at the European Parliament. Gil said of the need to continue campaigning , “the Japanese Government thinks if all ‘comfort women’ die, it will be buried and forgotten…as long as our next generation knows about it, it will not be forgotten”.
The European Parliament is one of a string of Parliaments taking a stand against past atrocities calling for the Government of Japan to provide justice to the survivors of Japan’s military sexual slavery system. Other countries are considering tabling similar resolutions.
The Government of Japan must act immediately to provide redress to those who suffered under the ‘comfort women’ system. Many survivors have subsequently suffered from mental and physical abuse, ill-health, isolation, shame and often extreme poverty. The Government of Japan must act now to
• Acknowledge full responsibility for the ‘comfort women’ system and publicly apologize to the survivors
• Provide adequate and effective compensation to survivors and their immediate families
• Publicly denounce sexual violence against women whenever and wherever it occurs