Prior to and during World War II, Japan’s Imperial Army established a system of brothels in its zones of combat specifically designed for military use, called “comfort stations.” Women and girls as young as 13 years old were enticed, kidnapped or coerced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military and its designated agents. Historians estimate that as many as 200,000 women and girls throughout Asia and the Pacific, the majority from Korea, were trafficked into government-sponsored military brothels. These women and girls are euphemistically known as “comfort women.”
While other instances of wartime sexual slavery have occurred throughout history and still do today, post-war Japan continues to have difficulty admitting to Imperial Japan’s role in what is deemed the most extensive case of government involvement in human trafficking. In 1993 Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yohei Kono, issued a statement, (the Kono Statement) recognizing that “the Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the ‘comfort stations’ and the transfer of ‘comfort women’.” However, the Kono statement is perceived only as a partial apology because (1) it was not issued by the Prime Minister in his official capacity, (2) it did not fully recognize the magnitude of the crime, and (3) it offered no government reparations to survivors and families of “comfort women.”
Today, the Japanese government is in the process of erasing this chapter of its wartime history. Despite corroboration and verification from historians and the international community, including the United Nations, that Imperial Japan engaged in systematic, government-sanctioned human trafficking for the purposes of sexual servitude, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is intensifying efforts to whitewash the history of “comfort women.” Abe and his political party are leading a campaign to revise textbooks in Japan and around the world to delete or dilute the sections on “comfort women.” Abe’s administration is also pressuring Japanese newspapers to retract their articles covering the subject and calling on foreign governments to remove references from official documents, as well as to destroy any memorials dedicated to the “comfort women.”
Members of Prime Minister Abe’s ruling party have reportedly stated that acknowledging atrocities committed during WWII, particularly sexual slavery, would diminish Japan’s honor and national pride. The government of Japan must take the opposite position. Honor is bestowed upon governments that recognize their role in perpetuating human rights violations and in fulfilling their responsibilities as members of the international community to work toward truth, democracy and equality for all.
Today, there are fewer than fifty “comfort women” survivors, well into their eighties and nineties. They are still fighting for an official and unequivocal apology from the Japanese government. We must join them to ensure that the world will never forget the women and girls trafficked, raped, physically and emotionally abused, and maintained in an institutionalized system of sexual slavery by Imperial Japan. Justice must be served.
Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Japanese Government to:
Immediately end any efforts to revise, remove, or request the removal of references to the history of the “comfort women” in Japanese and foreign textbooks, newspapers, historical records, and official United Nations and other government documents.
Officially affirm that Japan’s Imperial Army was engaged in systematic human trafficking for the sexual enslavement of women and girls in WWII military “comfort stations” and call for prosecution of the perpetrators.
Affirmatively and unequivocally apologize to the survivors and the bereaved families and accept historical responsibility for this institutionalized sexual slavery.
To view this petition in Korean, please click here.