It is estimated that between one and two hundred thousand female sex slaves were forced to deliver sexual services to Japanese soldiers, both before and during World War II. These women were known as comfort women and the Imperial Conference, which was composed of the emperor, representatives from the armed forces and the main Cabinet ministers, approved their use by Japanese soldiers. Walkom) The term “comfort women” refers to the victims of a “premeditated systematic plan originated and implemented by the government of Japan to enslave women considered inferior and subject them to repeated mass rapes,” said Michael D. Hausefeld, one of over 35 lawyers in his firm representing the former sexual prisoners in a class action lawsuit currently pending against the Japanese government. (Eddy) Since ancient times, prostitutes in Japan chose to sell their bodies either for family, poverty, or for saving her husband and her children.
More or less, their sacrifices were seen as positive.
But, being forced to become comfort woman by Japanese is seen as negative. The difference between the Japanese prostitutes and comfort women is that the comfort women did not choose to be trapped as a sex slave and they were not paid for what they did. In 1931, when the Japanese army invaded Manchuria, “comfort houses” made their first appearances. These comfort houses were created to provide the Japanese soldiers with outlets for their sexual needs.
In the beginning, there were only a few comfort houses but after the Nanjin Massacre occurred in 1937, many more were added, basically to every place that the Japanese were stationed. (Walkom) After the Japanese soldiers slaughtered thousands of Chinese people in the Nanjin Massacre, they barbarically raped an insurmountable number of women. As a result, anti-Japanese sentiments grew and it became harder to fully occupy these lands. The government set up comfort houses to decrease disorder and give the approximately two million soldiers a place to satisfy their sexual needs.
The Japanese did not have enough prostitutes to supply the needs of the soldiers so they commissioned civilians to develop comfort houses. At the time, only a small percentage of Japanese women were mobilized to “work” in comfort houses and they were all prostitutes to begin with. The majority of the comfort women were actually Korean women, who were forcibly taken from Korea to service the needs of the Japanese soldiers. After the war, the Japanese government destroyed all evidence of their involvement in Japanese comfort houses, enforcing that commercial businessmen were responsible for the movement of women.
Many of the comfort women were kidnapped or deceived into voluntarily working in comfort houses. Once they were there, they were trapped and forced into prostitution. Some women reported that Japanese agents offered them good jobs or education. Others were told that each family in the village had to donate a daughter to the war effort. Many others were offered food, shelter and factory jobs. The Japanese also kidnapped young, unmarried girls when they had a shortage of comfort women.
The ages of the girls in the comfort houses ranged from 15 to 19, with the minority exception of some younger girls and some older, married women. The girls were transported between military bases like cargo, under heavy guard in army trucks, trains, ship and bus. They were forced to lose their virginity before arriving at the bases to prepare them for having sexual intercourse with tens of soldiers every day. Many women contemplated death after this, as they believed their virginity to be more precious than life. (Henson)
When living in the comfort houses, the comfort women lived in fear and desperation. They were unable to leave, as they were heavily guarded. Each day, they were penetrated by as many as 50 soldiers, until they were sore and bloated to the point of not being able to open their legs. If they were infected with a sexually transmitted disease, they received injections known as Injection 606. If infected enough times, they lost their fertility. In Japan, infected women were killed. Their food was mixed with cyanide, their bodies taken to a cave and finally, the cave was blown up with a grenade.
The comfort houses made money off these women and it is believed that the Japanese government paid them, as most of the soldiers paid by coupons. As soon as the war was finished, the Japanese Imperialist guards disappeared without trace. Most comfort women describe the experience this way, ” Suddenly, the soldiers came no more, and upon asking we found that the war had ended. ” In other regions, as the Japanese committed “harikari”, the women were forced to do the same. In extreme cases, the women were put in a cave and blown up.
After the war, many of the comfort women were too sick to be moved and were taken under the care of the American army. Most of the women were left with no place to go, as they were in a strange country with no money, and were too humiliated to go home. According to one comfort woman, ” my body’s wasted, therefore I do not dare go home in fear of being ignored and looked down upon. ” Even after the war ended, the comfort women were not free. Their guilty minds and inferiority complexes kept them from returning home and they stayed in foreign countries.
The small amount that married, were often forced to separate after the fact that they were comfort women was known, or they were divorced because they could not have children. The victims are still suffering the pain physically and psychologically. More than half of them could not get pregnant, and most of them have chronicle diseases. Furthermore, the psychological impact on these women made them felt themselves dirty, ashamed that they disgraced themselves and isolated themselves from others. They are either afraid of getting married, or unable to ask for any commitment from their lovers.
For those who got married, their marriage was unstable and unhappy due to their past. Some thought that they must have done something evil in their previous life that they have to be punished in this life. (Hicks) They go to tempos to chant sutras, to confess, to pursue liberation, and they even commit suicide. Although the period of time they spent at the Japanese military base was a small part of their life, what they had experienced caused an incurable impact on their health, marriage, mind, and social adaptation.
Although the Japanese government continues to deny or minimize their involvement with comfort women, their defense is unraveling. A conference on “Japanese Crimes Against Humanity: Sexual Slavery and Forced Labor” was held last year, in which Japanese researchers delivered papers which claimed that the Japanese military, the rest of the government, and Japanese industry were all involved in the decision to provide sex slaves for the country’s soldiers. (Chunghee) Japanese historian Hirofumi Hayashi said: “The establishment and development of the military ‘comfort women’ system… as not only carried out by the total involvement of every section of the military but also by administrative machinery at every level of the Japanese state… In addition, we should not overlook that Japanese companies were their accomplices. ” (Chunghee) Researchers from the Center for Research and Documentation of Japan’s War Responsibilities in Yokohama showed that Japanese rubber companies were under government contract to supply 20 million condoms a year to armed forces once the decision had been made to provide sex slaves to the soldiers.
Rumiko Nishino wrote that “high-ranking adjutants” commissioned by Cabinet and sub-Cabinet-level government officials implemented the distribution of the condoms. The availability of condoms to the general population became “almost nil. ” (Chunghee) Last year, the Japanese appeals court overturned an earlier ruling that orders the government to compensate women who were forced to serve as sex slaves during World War II. Both sides had appealed that ruling. The plaintiffs because they thought the compensation was too small, and the government because they refused to pay. Duke) In deciding in favor of the government, the Hiroshima High Court said abducting women to use them as forced laborers and sex slaves was not a serious constitutional violation. Tokyo has admitted that its wartime army had set up brothels, and forced thousands of Koreans, Filipinos, Dutch and Chinese to serve as prostitutes, but it has refused to compensate these victims. Historians say as many as 200,000 women were forced into sexual slavery during World War II.
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