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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 January 15 - 21  > ‘Comfort women’ trial questions Abe gov’t’s historical interpretation
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2014 January 15 - 21 [HISTORY]

‘Comfort women’ trial questions Abe gov’t’s historical interpretation

January 17, 2014
Chuo University Professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki, who has long studied Japan’s wartime sex slavery system, filed a libel suit against a lawmaker of the right-wing opposition Japan Restoration Party (JRP) last year. Concerning this issue, Nishino Rumiko, a co-representative of the Violence Against Women in War Research Action Center (VAWW RAC), contributed an essay for Akahata. The following is a summary of the essay:

Osaka City Mayor Hashimoto Toru, who is also a co-leader of the JRP, held a news conference on May 28 last year at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, making an “excuse” for his making the remark that the sex slavery system was “needed during the war”. JRP parliamentarian Sakurauchi Fumiki also attended the conference. Referring to a description in Yoshimi’s book that the so-called “comfort women” were sex slaves for Japanese soldiers, Sakurauchi said, “He presents a made-up story.”

Although Yoshimi demanded that Sakurauchi retract his remark and apologize to him, Sakurauchi refused to do so. Yoshimi filed a lawsuit against Sakurauchi for defamation with the Tokyo District Court on July 26.

This case provides a place to question the nature and the actual situation of the sexual slavery system. It also brings into question the Abe government’s interpretation of Japanese history. The first Abe Cabinet in March 2007 decided upon a written answer claiming that there is no official documentation to support the allegation that those women were carted off under coercion. Based on this decision, Abe and his government have denied the fact that Japan’s military authorities forced the women to work as sex slaves.

If such an arrogant insistence goes unchallenged, it will allow those in power to rewrite history as they like. Sakurauchi’s remarks not only defame Yoshimi but also violate the dignity of former comfort women. To win this suit will help victims to regain their human dignity.

Ex-comfort women have raised their voices across Asia and urged the Japanese government to apologize to them for its past abusive behavior. Some materials of Japan’s Home Ministry indicate that the Imperial government established a national policy to set up comfort stations in occupied areas, ordered agents to collect local women, and maintained the sexual slavery system until the end of World War II.

As to whether those women were taken away against their will, some documents used in the trials on Class-B and C war criminals substantiate victims’ claims. The Tokyo Tribunal of War Criminals’ judgment also mentions that many Chinese women were forcibly taken to comfort facilities in Guilin.

On its official blog, the JRP insists that Sakurauchi’s case is a fight to protect the pride and dignity of Japan and the Japanese people.

The fact is, however, they continue wounding the people’s pride and dignity by denying these obvious facts and repeatedly asserting that “there is no evidence.”

Past related article:
> Historian criticizes Osaka mayor’s abusive remarks on ‘comfort women’ [November 14, 2012]
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