Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 21:35:27 -0600 (CST)
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: JAPAN: In Two Years, A Tribunal on Violence Against Women
/** headlines: 128.0 **/
** Topic: JAPAN: In Two Years, A Tribunal on Violence Against Women **
** Written 6:52 PM Dec 28, 1998 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 9:16 PM Dec 21, 1998 by firstname.lastname@example.org in ips.english */
/* ---------- "WOMEN-JAPAN: In Two Years, A Tribun" ---------- */
In Two Years, A Tribunal on Violence Against Women
By Suvendrini Kakuchi, IPS
17 December 1998
TOKYO, Dec 17 (IPS) - Women's groups across Asia have set December 2000
as the launch date for what will be the first war crime tribunal
focusing on violence against women during armed conflicts.
The Women's International War Crime Tribunal is actually a response to
the cry for justice made by thousands of women forced to be sex slaves
of Japanese soldiers during World War II. But women's rights activists
say it will also address other conflicts during which women faced
systematic rape, sexual slavery and other violence.
"The tribunal is one of the most important initiatives in the struggle
for justice for women whose suffering has gon e and continue to go
unnoticed by the world," says Yayoi Matsui, of the Japanese chapter of
the umbrella group Violence Against Women in War Network (VAWW), which
comprises women's organisations from around the world.
She adds that while the tribunal will really be a formal legal
proceeding, non-government organisations will nonethele ss be presenting
evidence that will support the points of view of women who have been
abused but have been denied the opportunity to have governments
acknowledge what happened to them, much less get justice.
Foremost among these cases are those of the so-called "comfort women"
forced to provide sex to the Japanese troops w ho had invaded and
occupied their countries in World War II.
Research by various scholars indicates that Korean and Chinese women
made up the bulk of the comfort women, although m any Filipino,
Indonesian, Thai and even Dutch women also became the sex slaves of the
Some were even merely girls at the time, with recorded cases of
11-year-olds among the soldiers' sex slaves.
For several years, the Japanese government denied the existence of
"comfort stations" set up by the now defunct Japa nese Imperial Army
all over Asia to service soldiers.
But following research by Japanese scholars that proved their existence
as well as the growing international uproar regarding the plight of the
comfort women, Tokyo decided to set up an Asian Women's Fund to provide
medicine and social welfare and financial help to the ex-comfort women.
The Fund, however, is privately financed. Many of the comfort women, now
in their late 60s and 70s, have said they wan t compensation to come
from the Japanese government itself, as well as an official apology for
what they had to go through.
Several lawsuits seeking precisely these have been filed against the
Japanese government, but so far none have brought satisfactory results.
According to Matsui, several court proceedings have been held in the
past "to judge Japan's acts in Asia" but none o f them -- not even the
most famous Tokyo Tribunal that held more than 400 hearings -- really
focused on the violence that had been done on the women.
In contrast, the tribunal will not only address the issue of the comfort
women, but also many instances of the violenc e women have had to go
through in other armed conflicts across postwar Asia.
Among these, say women's groups, are the rape some 200,000 women during
the war for independence in Bangladesh in the 1970s and rape used as a
means of torture in the hands of the military government during the
internal conflict in Burma in the 1980s.
Activists also hope the tribunal will tackle the rape and sexual
enslavement of women in East Timor under Indonesian c olonial rule and
rape committed by the security troops during the India-Kashmir war
conflict in 1990s.
Australian legal consultant Ustina Dolgopol, who co-authored the UN
report 'Comfort Women: The Unfinished Ordeal', say s the many legal
disadvantages faced by women are rooted in discrimination and are
inherent in the societal structure. "The tribunal aims to change this
attitude," she says. "By holding the tribunal, the Japanese people can
say we do value women within Japan and elsewhere in the region, believe
in the equality of women and want new laws based on the perspective of
Women's groups are now collecting evidence across Asia for presentation
at the tribunal -- an awesome task, consideri ng much of crucial
evidence in many of the cases have either been destroyed or are still
being hidden. Activists say this is especially true of the "comfort
Lawyers and researchers working with Matsui say Asian comfort women will
testify for the first time against ex-militar y police, top ex military
men who were involved in the system.
Says Taiwanese lawyer Wang Ching Feng: "It is a civil case and will be
a landmark not only the comfort women but also in the now increasing
consciousness of people's power that hopes to change the world for the
Lawyer Apong Herlina, who is working with Indonesian comfort women,
expresses firm support for the tribunal. "Former comfort women in
Indonesia have kept their suffering silent for more than five decades,"
she says. "There is a lot of expectation for the tribunal because it
brings them justice and restores their dignity."
Comments Apong: "The tribunal is important because it sets a precedent
for achieving justice even today when ethnic C hinese women are
struggling regain their dignity after being raped by Indonesian
Meanwhile, Chinese historian Chen Lifei of the Huadong Educational
College Press says Chinese scholars have started to collect evidence
after years of suppression of pertinent data.
Their research so far indicates that there were at least 77 comfort
stations in Shanghai and that some 200,000 Chinese women were
"conscripted& into the service.
Lawyer Wang, for her part, says there are currently 45 women in Taiwan
who have revealed their stories as comfort women. Some researchers
though say at least 1,200 women from the island were forced to become
sex slaves of the Japanese soldiers between 1938 and 1945.
(END/IPS/ap-pr/sk/cb/98) 2170753 MNL002 2170616 ORP022
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