Women’s group prodded government to defend ‘comfort women’

Gabriela dares the government to push for the recognition of the plight of Filipino comfort women who were raped and forced into sexual slavery during the Japanese occupation.

In a forum last Thursday, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas and Gabriela Secretary General Joms Salvador asked President Rodrigo Duterte to demand an official apology and compensation for Filipino women who were "conscripted by the Japanese Imperial Army to serve as wartime sex slaves" from the Japanese government.

Salvador enumerated the three components in the quest for justice for Filipino comfort women: a formal apology, an acknowledgement of atrocities, and reparation.

The women’s group also asked Duterte to oppose any request by Japan to remove a newly erected statue honoring women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

The historical marker, which includes a 2.1-meter statue of a blindfolded woman with a shawl covering her head and with both hands clutching her clothes to her chest, was unveiled last Dec. 8 on a promenade along Roxas Boulevard near the Japanese Embassy. The marker says the monument memorializes Filipinas who suffered abuses during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. It was built with donations from Chinese-Filipino groups and individuals.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines allowed a foundation to erect the bronze statue in the said Manila tourist spot last month.

Duterte has nurtured blossoming relations with Japan and its leader, Shinzo Abe, thus, the emotional issue provides a dilemma for the government's ties with Tokyo, a major provider of aid and financing to the Philippines.

Salvador said that there are only 20 out of more than 200 "comfort women" who remain alive more than 70 years after they were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army.

About 1,000 Philippine women were forced into prostitution by Japanese troops during the war - they are known by the Japanese euphemism “comfort women” -- a sensitive issue that had prompted some survivors to demand an apology as well as compensation from Japan.