Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery
The landmark 2000 tribunal sought to hold Japan accountable for its wartime atrocities and raise awareness about the comfort women issue. The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal, held in Tokyo in December 2000, aimed to shed light on the issue of comfort women and hold the Japanese government accountable for its involvement in military sexual slavery. The tribunal resulted in a symbolic verdict finding Emperor Hirohito and other high-ranking officials guilty of crimes against humanity. However, the Japanese government did not recognize the tribunal's findings.
Comfort women crossing a river following soldiers.
Japanese Citizens’ Activism and Support for Comfort Women
Despite the Japanese government's efforts to evade culpability for the comfort women issue, many Japanese citizens have actively protested against their government's denial and sought to preserve the memory of comfort women. These activists include scholars, journalists, lawyers, and artists who have engaged with Japan's history of military sexual slavery and fought for justice on behalf of the victims.
Chinese and Malayan girls forcibly taken from Penang by the Japanese to work as 'comfort girls' for the troops.
In classrooms, galleries, and public spaces, these dedicated individuals employ innovative approaches to inform and engage the Japanese public about the comfort women issue. In addition, through documentary films, theatrical performances, and literature, they challenge the narrative imposed by the government and inspire others to join the cause. As more Japanese citizens become aware of and engage with the issue, the collective call for justice, empathy, and reconciliation strengthens. This expanding movement not only encourages Japan to face its past but also exemplifies the power of individuals to come together and drive meaningful change, creating a future where the suffering of comfort women is acknowledged and healing can truly begin.
Denial: Quick Look of History of Comfort Women and Present Days’ Complication - Guide
Approximately 200,000 women and girls were forced into sexual slavery during World War 2. They were also known as comfort women, a translation of Ianfu(慰安婦), the Japanese term for "comforting, consoling woman." Although most of the women came from Korea, women from other occupied regions such as Burma, China, Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, Manchukuo, Taiwan, New Guinea, Portuguese Timor, and the Dutch East Indies were also taken into the military sexual slavery.
The women suffered beatings, torture, forced pregnancies, and rape throughout the war. Even after the war, they suffered from medical complications as survivors of sexual violence. In addition, some former comfort women lived in shame and were ostracised by their community after the war. It was not until nearly 50 years after the end of WW2 that former comfort woman Kim Hak-Sun shared her testimony, inspiring other women to come out and share their stories. This work describes the system of military sexual slavery that had been erased from historical memory, and it traces Japan's alternating acknowledgment and denial of its comfort women system from the 1990s to the present.