Wednesday, May 2, 2012
FROM 1928 until the end of World War II, about 200,000 to 400,000 Asian women were forcibly drafted into sexual servitude by the Japanese Imperial Army.
These women, many in their teens, were often either tricked by offers of legitimate employment or abducted by Japanese soldiers and forced into so-called comfort houses. There they were forced to sexually please their captors, sometimes several at a time up to several times a day. To resist, invited beatings, torture and even death.
According to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a Swiss-based international women's rights organisation, they generally received little or no medical treatment even if they were injured in the process of rape and torture or became pregnant or infected with venereal disease.
Towards the end of the War, thousands were executed to conceal the existence of the comfort houses. In the Philippines, a human rights group has documented the cases of three survivors who bear the marks of where the Japanese tried to behead them.
About 60,000 comfort women survived the War and approximately one thousand are alive today, the youngest of whom is in her sixties. After decades of hiding what happened, they are now finding the courage to come out and tell their stories.
The Japanese imperial army were brutal during World War 2, killing, raping and brutalizing women, men, children and eldery, without any pity or respect for humans' life.
In 1944, an Australian woman, Jan O'Herne was 21 and interned in Java with her family, she and nine other young women were taken to a house used as a brothel by the Japanese military. For the next three months, she was repeatedly raped.
This is the story of Felicidad de Los Reyes who is a Flipino woman from Masbate, Philippines.
One day in 1943 three truckloads of Japanese soldiers from the garrison compound at the back of her school visited Felicidad's class. Her Japanese teacher had organised the students to perform songs and dances for the visiting soldiers. The Japanese army often introduced Japanese civilian teachers into schools in its conquered territories.
Felicidad, then only 14, was made to sing. The following day her teacher told the class that the soldiers were so impressed with the students' performance that they wanted to reward them. Felicidad was identified as one who was to be given an award and later that day two soldiers arrived to fetch her. They told her that she would be given the gift at the garrison. Thinking that there might be other students there, Felicidad went along. But when she got there, she did not see any of her school friends. Instead the only other women she saw were doing the soldiers' cooking and laundry.
She became worried. She asked to leave. The two guards refused. Instead they took her to a small room in the compound and pushed her in. They told her that her gift was coming.
A few hours later five Japanese soldiers arrived. Three of them were in uniform and two in civilian clothes. One of them jumped onto her catching her by the arms and forcing her down onto the ground. When she struggled, another punched her in the face while another grabbed her legs and held them apart. Then they took it in turns to rape her.
Felicidad had no knowledge about sex. She did not even have her menstruation. So she did not understand what they were doing to her. She begged them to stop. But they just laughed and whenever she struggled or screamed, they would punch and kick her.
Confused and frightened and tired and in pain, she drifted in and out of consciousness. That night three more soldiers came and repeatedly raped her. For the next three days a succession of soldiers abused her.
The continual raping and beatings finally took their toll and on the third day she fell ill. Her body and mind could take it no more. But even though she was obviously sick, the abuse continued. Not even her fever drew pity from her rapists.
Finally on the morning of the fourth day, a Filipino interpreter working for the Japanese visited her. She told him she was very sick and wanted to go home to recover. Feeling sympathy for her, he let her out of the compound.
When she arrived home, her parents who had no idea where she was, cried after learning what had happened. Just the year before an older sister had been taken by the Japanese. She died in a comfort house.
Kang il-chul is one of a handful of the surviving women living their final days in the Sharing House, a museum and communal refuge two hours from the South Korean capital, Seoul.
At the age of 15, she says she was taken and sent to a Japanese base in Manchuria. On her second night, before her first menstru-ation, she was raped. Soldiers lined up night after night to abuse her. She has scars below her neck from cigarette burns and says she suffers headaches from a beating she took at the hands of a Japanese officer. "I still have blood tears in my soul when I think about what happened," she says.
Like many of the women, she finds it traumatic to recall the past, crying and knotting a handkerchief, and swaying as she talks. But she gets angry and slaps the table in front of her when the former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is mentioned. "That horrible man," she spits. "He wants us to die."
Mind you there are millions similar stories because the comfort women numbered as high as 400,000.
Approximately three quarters of comfort women died, and most survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or sexually-transmitted disease.
So why help the Japanese when Tsunami or Earthquake hits Japan??