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Japan mayor told: Watch your mouth on comfort women

Publication Date : 16-05-2013


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday reminded Japanese officials to be careful in commenting about “comfort women” as the issue of wartime sexual abuse continues to rankle in the Philippines.

DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez recalled how other Japanese officials had issued apologies in previous years for the abuse that this group of Filipino women suffered from Japanese soldiers.

“The Philippine government has always urged Japanese authorities to be more circumspect in their public statements relating to this issue as they strike at the core of the feelings and sensitivities of those who experienced great suffering during World War 2,” Hernandez said Wednesday.

He was commenting on the reported remarks that Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto had made last Monday, in which the mayor called the comfort women system instituted by the invading Japanese military as a “necessary” part of maintaining the well-being of Japanese soldiers.

Under the system, some 200,000 women in the Philippines, China and Korea were forced to serve as sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army during the war.

Hashimoto, an outspoken nationalist, was quoted to have said: “For soldiers who risked their lives in circumstances where bullets are flying around like rain and wind, if you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary. That’s clear to anyone.”

“The Philippines reiterates the importance of adhering to the language and tone” of apologies from Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s 2002, Hernandez said.

In a letter to Filipino comfort women, Koizumi had called the systematic sexual slavery of women as a “grave affront to the honour and dignity of large numbers of women” as he recognised that it inflicted both physical and psychological wounds on the victims.

Harry Roque, the chair of the Centre for International Law who represents a group of Filipino comfort women, called on the government to lodge a diplomatic protest with the Japanese government for the Osaka mayor’s remarks.

“The statement is crass, obscene and is an attempt to justify a criminal act under international law. Specifically, rape and all forms of degrading and humiliating treatment committed in the context of an armed conflict have always been illegal under oath customary international law and under the Geneva Conventions,” said Roque in a statement.

Roque represents the Malaya Lolas, a group of women “who were raped systematically” by Japanese soldiers during the war in Candaba, Pampanga.

He said Japan could be held liable for Hashimoto’s statement as it was made in public and falls under the United Nations’ Articles of State resolution, which “provides that all acts and/or statements by state organs may give rise to attribution to the state.”

Advocacy groups in the Philippines, particularly those who are helping Filipino comfort women in their protracted battle to obtain justice, have been incensed by Hashimoto’s remarks.

There is no acceptable reason to abuse and treat women as sex slaves, said Luz Ilagan, another Gabriela House member.

“How can you justify rape, molestation and sexual abuse as a necessary act? Rape and sexual slavery are heinous crimes,” she said.

With Christine Avendano and Leila Salaverria


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