International Anti-Trafficking Organization Urges Japanese Prime Minister to Apologize for Wartime Human Trafficking of “Comfort Women”
Abe to Address Congress Joint Session for First Time
New York, April 28, 2015 – The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) is urging Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to take the occasion of his historic address to a joint session of Congress on April 29 to recognize the Imperial Army’s role in the trafficking of women and girls for sexual slavery prior to and during World War II. The Prime Minister’s speech will mark the first time a Japanese official addresses both houses of Congress and is taking place during the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. The remaining survivors of these trafficked women and girls, euphemistically known as “comfort women,” still await a formal apology from the Japanese government.
“Many governments have been and are guilty of horrific crimes against humanity, including state-sanctioned sexual violence and trafficking in women and girls,” says Taina Bien-Aimé, CATW’s executive director. “However, it is critical to engage in truth and reconciliation so that history doesn’t keep repeating itself. If Japan is serious about combatting human trafficking today, it must face its past with honor and apologize to the women it enslaved.”
Historical records show that up to 200,000 women and girls, mostly from Korea, but also from China, the Philippines, Taiwan and the Dutch East Indies (today, Indonesia) were trafficked by the Imperial Army and its designated agents to military “comfort stations” where they were continuously raped and tortured with impunity as sexual slaves. CATW launched a petition on change.org exhorting Abe to end efforts to whitewash the history of “comfort women” and to take responsibility for these crimes in accordance with Japan’s stated commitment to principles of democracy, justice and human rights.
One of the few remaining sexual slavery survivors, Yong-Soo Lee, 86, flew to Washington, D.C. from South Korea to protest Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Congress and to continue demanding an apology.
“I was kidnapped at 15 and trafficked to a Japanese military brothel where soldiers carried out unspeakable horrors on me and the countless other women and girls enslaved there,” says Ms. Lee, who remained silent about her ordeal for 47 years before speaking out twenty-three years ago. “I transformed my shame into courage to seek justice and I traveled far to hear an apology from the mouth of Prime Minister Abe. We deserve nothing less and have waited too long.”