The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan

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2. Violence against women in situations of armed conflict

(b) Nature of abuse

273. For the first time also, after nearly 50 years, Korean women survivors of the Second World War used as "comfort women" by the Japanese imperial forces have broken their silence and come forward to tell their stories. It is estimated that more than 200,000 Asian women, mainly Koreans, were forcibly recruited by the Japanese army command to serve as sexual slaves of soldiers in brothels, so-called "military comfort houses".

(c) Motives

278. Distinctive patterns of rape have been discernible in situations of armed conflict, whether in Korea during the Second World War or in the territories of the former Yugoslavia. Women are abused and raped by looters and civilians, sometimes people known to them, prior to military action in their own homes, or in public in their villages to serve as a deterrent for any resistance to the forthcoming military action, to suffocate dissent and to force collaboration. Upon the arrival of the military, the women are raped, sometimes killed and otherwise deported to detention camps. During deportation, women also may have to endure physical abuse. In the detention camps, they are once again raped and are sometimes required to serve as sexual slaves to the enemy soldiers, often having to endure other forms of sexual torture, beating and threats. Furthermore, the detention of women in hotels or similar facilities for the sole purpose of sexually entertaining soldiers, members of the camps and surrounding enemy communities has also been documented. / S/1994/674, paragraph 249./

(e) "Comfort women"

286. It is precisely this question of impunity that the former "comfort women" victims of the Second World War are addressing in their recent testimonies. / For a detailed study see Karen Parker and Jennifer F. Chew "Compensation for Japan's WW II war rape victims", in Hastings International and Comparative Review, Vol. 17, No.3, Spring 1994./

287. Between 1932 and 1945, the Japanese imperial forces are reported to have practiced a policy of systematic mobilization of women of colonized or occupied areas by force, pretext or kidnapping, in order to use them as sexual slaves for the armed forces. Most of the women were young girls between the ages of 11 and 20.

288. The "comfort women" or "jugun ianfu" had to endure multiple rape on an everyday basis in the "military comfort houses", which were strictly regulated by the military and set up in such places as north-east China or Manchuria, other parts of China, the Philippines, Korea, and the Dutch East Indies, Malaysia, Indonesia. Allegedly, soldiers were encouraged by their commanding officers to use the "comfort women" facilities rather than civilian brothels "for the purpose of stabilizing soldiers' psychology, encouraging their spirit and protecting them from venereal infections", as well as a measure to prevent looting and widespread raping during military attacks on villages. / Paper prepared by the non-governmental organization Korean Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, Seoul, August 1994./

289. It is only after having overcome their own sense of guilt and shame, as well as the social stigma associated with being a victim of rape, and only after the discovery of official documentary evidence in the Japanese national archives of the "comfort women" operation, that the few survivors have finally spoken out. They are demanding (a) disclosure by the Government of Japan of all records and information in its possession concerning the issue, (b) an official public apology recognizing Japanese guilt, (c) the provision of due reparation to the surviving victims and their families and (d) the punishment of the perpetrators. The Filipino and Korean "comfort women" have also filed law suits against the Government of Japan. These demands may be seen as setting the framework for future action with regard to State accountability for violence against women in times of armed conflict.

290. In July 1992, an apology was delivered by the Japanese Prime Minister, admitting that the Japanese military had forced tens of thousands of women to work as sex slaves in a vast network of Government-run brothels. However, the question of compensation has still to be determined and the act has still to be recognized as a crime under international humanitarian law.

291. Nearly 50 years have passed since the end of the Second World War. And yet this issue should not be considered a matter of the past but of today. It is a crucial question that would set a legal precedent at the international level for the prosecution of perpetrators of systematic rape and sexual slavery in times of armed conflict. A symbolic gesture of compensation would introduce a remedy of "compensation" for women victims of violence perpetrated during times of armed conflict.

292. … The Special Rapporteur on the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Mr. T. van Boven, has said "there is no doubt that the obligation to provide for compensation as a means to repair a wrongful act or a wrongful situation is a well established principle in international law". / E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/10, para. 33. /

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