Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: Join Me

March 7, 2007
The Eve of International Women’s Day
An Invitation to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Dear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,

We have never met, but I invite you to meet the women of LILA Pilipina. On March 2, 2007 you announced, “There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it (the coercion of WWII military sex slaves).” I’ve been working with surviving WWII Comfort Women of the Philippines since 1998. Let me take you to Lolas’ House, a tiny cottage in Quezon City, Manila where women meet and gather the evidence you need to prove there was, indeed, coercion.

If 81-year old Pilar Frias is there, she will tell you that in 1942 she had two bouts with Japanese soldiers before she was taken captive. During the first intrusion, soldiers cornered her and shouted in a foreign tongue. Confused, Pilar didn’t react. Frustrated, a soldier took his cigarette and held it to her face, tipped the lighted end and burned a hole into her skin. She cried out and the soldier, angry that she should be displeased drew his knife and sliced her nose. Blood poured from her face and as she cried he yanked her by the hair and shoved her head deep into a bin of water. The blood blossomed in a cloud of red. The soldiers stole the family’s livestock – a cow, some chickens and pigs. They raided their supply of rice and other dried goods. During the next invasion, they raped her five times – each time it was a different soldier. 17 years old and bleeding, they tied her at the waist and dragged her along with three other girls. She was made to follow them as they hunted down Philippine guerillas. Strung together by a sturdy hemp rope, the four girls were raped every night, five times a night, a different soldier every time.

Perhaps her words are not proof enough. Then give me your hand. Sometimes when the women tell their stories and they trust that you are listening, they will guide your hands to touch their wounds. Pilar Frias has a wide flat nose and a scar that runs the length and width of it. If you run your fingers along the line of that scar, you can actually feel where the bayonet sliced her. If you run your hands along her waist, you will see the fall and rise of scars where ropes burned her skin as she was dragged through the forests with three other young women and raped each night.

Is this not evidence of coercion?

Since 1993 the women of LILA Pilipina have come forward to the dismay of their families. They have marched the streets and filed petitions to acknowledge the crimes that were placed on their bodies, on their spirits and on the rest of their natural lives. They have traveled to Japan and appeared in your courts to tell their personal stories of sexual abuse. This is not an easy thing to do. If you understand the culture of shame that comes with such experiences, you know that their presence in this house in Quezon City, or at the gates of the Japanese Embassy in Manila, or in your country’s courts is evidence enough.

The women are in their eighties, and yes, they are dying. When they are gone it will be much easier to pretend that these wartime atrocities never happened. But women like Pilar Frias have many friends and supporters. We know their stories. We have touched their wounds and seen the consequences of your military’s actions on their lives.

There are enough of us who know. Who are working to document their experiences. Who like them, are fighting to stop this act of violence from recurring to another daughter, to a niece, to a child.

This summer, I plan to visit the Lolas of LILA Pilipina to complete the work I’ve begun. Meet me there, Prime Minister Abe. Sit with us. Listen and then insist you have no evidence to prove there was coercion. Unless you believe that women's lives hold no value -- that the wounds that mar their bodies, that stain their minds and have affected their lives hold no value. for you

Sincerely,

M. Evelina Galang
Assistant Professor, English
University of Miami

110th CONGRESS- House Resolution 121-1H

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Force's coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as `comfort women' , during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

January 31, 2007

Mr. HONDA (for himself, Mr. SMITH of New Jersey, Mr. ROYCE, Ms. WATSON, Mr. HARE, Ms. BORDALLO, and Mr. WU) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

RESOLUTION

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Force's coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as `comfort women' , during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II.

Whereas the Government of Japan, during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II, officially commissioned the acquisition of young women for the sole purpose of sexual servitude to its Imperial Armed Forces, who became known to the world as ianfu or `comfort women' ;

Whereas the `comfort women' system of forced military prostitution by the Government of Japan, considered unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude, included gang rape, forced abortions, humiliation, and sexual violence resulting in mutilation, death, or eventual suicide in one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century;

Whereas some new textbooks used in Japanese schools seek to downplay the `comfort women' tragedy and other Japanese war crimes during World War II;

Whereas Japanese public and private officials have recently expressed a desire to dilute or rescind the 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the `comfort women' , which expressed the Government's sincere apologies and remorse for their ordeal;

Whereas the Government of Japan did sign the 1921 International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children and supported the 2000 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women , Peace, and Security which recognized the unique impact of armed conflict on women ;

Whereas the House of Representatives commends Japan's efforts to promote human security, human rights, democratic values, and rule of law, as well as for being a supporter of Security Council Resolution 1325;

Whereas the House of Representatives commends those Japanese officials and private citizens whose hard work and compassion resulted in the establishment in 1995 of Japan's private Asian Women's Fund;

Whereas the Asian Women's Fund has raised $5,700,000 to extend `atonement' from the Japanese people to the comfort women ; and

Whereas the mandate of the Asian Women's Fund, a government initiated and largely government-funded private foundation whose purpose was the carrying out of programs and projects with the aim of atonement for the maltreatment and suffering of the `comfort women' , comes to an end on March 31, 2007, and the Fund is to be disbanded as of that date: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Japan--

(1) should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Force's coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as `comfort women' , during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II;

(2) should have this official apology given as a public statement presented by the Prime Minister of Japan in his official capacity;

(3) should clearly and publicly refute any claims that the sexual enslavement and trafficking of the `comfort women' for the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces never occurred; and

(4) should educate current and future generations about this horrible crime while following the recommendations of the international community with respect to the `comfort women' .

Everyone Can Help the Comfort Women -- You too!

Representative Mike Honda presented this statement to the 110th House of Congress in January:

"Today, I am introducing a resolution which calls on Japan to formally and unambiguously apologize and acknowledge the tragedy which the comfort women endured under its Imperial Army during World War II. Not only should Japan’s Prime Minister issue a public apology, Japan must take responsibility unequivocally.

"The purpose of this resolution is not to bash or humiliate Japan. This is about achieving justice for the few remaining women who survived this atrocity. We must recognize this grave human rights violation, which has remained unknown for so many years.

"Madam Speaker, to put it frankly, the few surviving comfort women in the world who live with this burden are dying. We must help them achieve some peace of mind by moving this resolution forward. For the women who survived this brutality, this resolution demonstrates that our nation supports them and hears their voices calling for justice."

If you'd like to help, you can write House Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer to put House Resolution 121 on the books. See the link ACTIVATE YOUR PEN above.

Here's to the power of the written word --
Evelina
Loading...