Saturday, March 12, 2005

Comfort women

Last year, I took my first Woman's Studies course at Yale. It was a simple introduction to the topic of feminist theory, analyzing issues through a feminist lens, and such fun stuff. One of the lectures told the story of "comfort women," captured by the Japanese army during WWII and placed in shacks where they were serially raped for years by Japanese troops who needed "comfort." The horror of that plight is unimaginable to me. Don't need to say too much more about that.

What does deserve some attention are the efforts of the Japanese government since their victims have come forward. The Japanese government didn't officially recognize them until 1992. The Japanese Supreme Court two years ago denied requests for compensation by 10 South Korean comfort women on the basis that they had filed their claims too long after the events took place. As far as I can tell, the only sensible reason to deny such claims because of the elapsed time between the claim and the event is to prevent false claims that cannot be verified. But in this case, that reasoning doesn't work. First, the chance of false claims in this case is extremely low given the shame associated with the victims of the Japanese army's rape program. Victims today tell of how their families shun them because of the shame they bring. And second, if claims are hard to verify, allow cases to be made in court, don't simply reject the cases at the outset. I'm no legal expert, but this attempt by the Japanese government to avoid real responsibility for the victims of their comfort women program is transparent and ludicrous.

I'm not sure how widely-known the story of the comfort women is in the United States. I didn't learn about it in my high school history books. I didn't learn about it until I took a course on women's issues. But the plight of the comfort women is not a feminist issue, it's not a women's issue. It's sickening what we'll sweep under the rug. Now, the victims are organizing a petition that they hope will have 1 million signatures. Here's to the Japanese government getting called out before the victims die and their pleas are buried with them. Imagine if these were Holocaust victims. Imagine that the German government didn't recognize the Holocaust until 1992. Imagine that they wouldn't publicly acknowledge culpability for what happened.

And now I'm going to help with my little brother's clown party.


Post a Comment

<< Home