Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I come to you because you are a woman too. You understand best what it means to be a woman who has suffered unjustly. You understand what it means to be a mother who sacrifices her own happiness for her children. I come to you. I make an appeal to you because in your own darkest hour, you were able rise above and comfort the women, despite your own sorrow.
I know they come to you too. The women. Some at least. I have talked to so many of the women – at least forty of the 200,000. I have come to know and love at least half of the forty and their supporters too. When I ask the lolas how they were able to endure the pain, how they could find reason to live beyond the barrage of indignities – the lines of men waiting to rape them, the insults to the body, the mind and the spirit and then to survive that kind of war only to return to homes that did not want them – for the shame of being women used, for the shame of being with the enemy in ways no woman should be touched – when I ask them how they can look at me with such love and want me to know love – love of family, of husband, of country – do you know what they tell me?
Each one says, “Sa awa ng Dyos.” As if God carried them through that tumult of abuse in miraculous ways and despite the assault of Japanese soldiers, the scars of bayonet wounds and cigarette burns, despite the nightmares that recur each night and the husbands who never forgave them and the children who will never understand them and presidents who refuse to acknowledge them – the women I have met are full of love. Like you they are full of grace. That is true strength to survive all that and to come forward in our culture of tsmis and hiya – of gossip and shame -- in order to reclaim their dignity and to make sure this kind of war can never happen again.
This has been a miraculous year, beginning on March 1, 2007, when then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brought the injustice to 200,000 Comfort Women of WWII to the attention of the modern world. When he came forward and invited this international dialog and the women were brought to radiant light. This moment, when the whole world listened because of Abe’s indiscretion ignited our hearts to action. Thank you. I know you were witness to that moment. I know you blessed it. I know you smiled.
So many men and women came forward in support of the women. So many opened their eyes and let down their guard and came to know the stories of the women one by one. So many saw the relationship between these acts of the past and the role of women and war in our present day and we all feared for our daughters’ future.
Through the work of the lolas and other survivors, through the efforts of so many local activists – like my students at the University of Miami and my dear friends Annabel Park and Eric Byler of Washington DC and Allyson Tintiangco Cubales, Mariana Villanueva and Barbara Jane Reyes of the Bay Area – we, like so many others -- educated our communities. Our communities responded with hand-written letters, phone calls, checks, their time and their resources and one by one, our nations’ governments took note.
They took note! First, on July 30th, 2007, the United States Congress stood up as one body and they asked their good friends in Japan to pay attention to their past, to right the wrongs of the past. They asked the Japanese government to apologize to the 200,000 women and to take full responsibility for these acts against humanity. House Resolution 121 passed by a unanimous voice vote and this blessing urged other nations to rise and make their own requests for justice – other nations have passed similar bills – Canada and the Netherlands and the European Parliament. Even the Philippine Congress has a bill asking for reparations and redress on behalf of the women.
Small and large miracles everywhere -- for the world now understands the history of the surviving Comfort Women of WWII. The more the Japanese government resists, the more the people know. During the campaign for House Res. 121 several private Japanese citizens expressed their own desire for their government to come forward with an apology to the women.
After fifty years of silence, several of the 200,000 women around the world stood up, representing their sisters in Korea, the Philippines, China, Australia, New Zealand, Dutch Indies and even their sisters in Japan – yes, Japan – and they asked the world to listen. After 15 years of protests, appeals, marches, letters and sworn testimony, the world is stepping up and backing up the women. Thank God.
But what of my lolas at LILA Pilipina? All the work they have done and still no apology. No reparations. No signs of remorse. Many have died without witnessing these small miracles. Lola Cristeta Alcober, who pulled my hands through the streets of Antipolo and made me sit on her balcony and tape her testimony, died before seeing any of this. And Lola Catalina Lorenzo, my kababayan from Pampanga was in her eighties when I met her in 1999 – she’d get so mad that her hands talked faster than her mouth and her words were like bullets. When will there be justice, she wanted to know. Who answered her? No one. Lola Priscilla Bartonica, a beautiful woman who taught me to dance the tango, once held my hand and said no words, but looked into my eyes and there I saw the tear forming and falling even as she smiled at me. She fought so hard for so many years never sleeping a full night’s sleep after that war. What of these women and the others? Is it not time to comfort them? To give them peace?
I write you on this public space, where some know you, others ignore you, and still others do not recognize you, but I have written to almost everyone with power. Almost everyone. And though this conversation may be best served in the privacy between us, I am asking you to please comfort the women. Bring them peace. Bring them hope. Sa awa ng Dyos. Comfort the women
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, 20 December 2007, 6:58 am
Press Release: Amnesty International
European Parliament adopts resolution on comfort women
Amnesty International welcomes the adoption of resolution on survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery system (the so-called 'comfort women' system) by the European Parliament (Resolution B60525/2007) on 13 December 2007. The resolution, which was passed with a clear majority, contributes to the global voice calling on Japanese authorities to take the concrete step of apologising to the survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery system before and during the World War II.
The resolution urges the Government of Japan to 'formally acknowledge, apologise, and accept historical and legal responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Force's coercion of young women into sexual slavery' and to 'implement effective administrative mechanisms to provide reparations to all surviving victims of the 'comfort women' system and the families of its deceased victims'.
This resolution joins the growing worldwide call for justice for the survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery system. In July 2007, the US House of Representatives passed resolution 121. In November the Dutch unanimously passed a motion calling for justice for comfort women. The Canadian Parliament unanimously passed Motion 291 on 28 November.
Amnesty International urges Parliaments in other countries to take a similar stand and welcomes recent moves in the Philippines, Germany and the UK to consider tabling resolutions.
Amnesty International strongly urges the Government of Japan to heed the international voice calling for justice for the survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery system and to:
* accept full responsibility for the 'comfort women' system in a way that it publicly acknowledges the harm that these women suffered and restores the dignity of the survivors;
* apologise fully for the crimes committed against these women;
* provide adequate and effective compensation to survivors and their immediate families directly from the government;
* include an accurate account of the sexual slavery system in Japanese education text books on World War II; and
* publicly denounce sexual violence against women whenever and wherever it occurs
Tens of thousands of women were forcibly abducted and deceived into sexual slavery into Japanese military controlled "comfort stations" organized in the different occupied countries before and during World War II. Amnesty International believes that the crimes perpetrated against these women amount to crimes against humanity. To this day, the Japanese government has refused adequately and unequivocally to acknowledge its responsibility for the crimes committed against former "comfort women".
Friday, December 14, 2007
The Lolas must be dancing at this news! Thanks to the European Parliament! Here is an article from Bloomberg.
European Parliament Demands Japan Apologize to `Comfort Women'
By Stuart Biggs
Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The European Parliament passed a resolution demanding Japan apologize and accept legal responsibility for forcing women to serve as sex slaves during World War II, according to a statement on its Web Site.
The resolution called on Japan's government to provide more compensation to the former sex slaves, known euphemistically as ``comfort women,'' and condemned recent remarks by Japanese officials seeking to distance the government from responsibility.
As many as 200,000 women from China, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia were forced by Japan's Imperial Army to serve as sex slaves in 2,000 centers before and during World War II, Japanese historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki wrote in his 1995 book ``Comfort Women.''
The system ``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,'' the European Parliament's resolution said.
The resolution called on Japan's parliament to enact laws recognizing individuals' rights to claim reparations against the government and said compensation to former sex slaves should be ``prioritized, taking into account the age of the survivors.''
The U.S. House of Representatives agreed on a similar non- binding resolution on July 30 calling on then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to apologize for the Imperial Army's actions.
The resolution was introduced by Representative Mike Honda, a California Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
Abe caused controversy on March 1 when he said no evidence exists to show the government and military were directly involved in forcing the women into slavery, contradicting the findings of a two-year government study in 1993 that formed the basis of an apology by then-Cabinet Secretary Yonei Kono.
Abe backtracked on his remarks during a parliamentary session on March 26.
``Some Japanese officials have recently expressed a regrettable desire to dilute or rescind'' the government's previous apology, the European Parliament's resolution said.
A group of 44 Japanese lawmakers were signatories to a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post in June denying the Japanese military's responsibility for forcing the women into the camps and to protest the introduction of Congress's resolution.
The advertisement was signed by 29 members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, 13 members of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and two independent lawmakers, including Hiranuma Takeo, the former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Biggs in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Friday, November 30, 2007
One by one, the nations of the world are asking you to step up, Japan. Hold your head up, look at your past. Take responsibility for your actions. One by one, the nations are asking you to please do the noble thing, the just thing.
Thank you, Canada!
CANADA CHIDES JAPAN ON SEX SLAVES
Canada's parliament has unanimously passed a motion calling on Japan to apologise for forcing some 200,000 women to serve as wartime sex slaves.
The motion sponsor, opposition MP Olivia Chow, said the episode constituted "crimes against humanity".
The women affected were mainly Chinese, Korean, and Filipina, but other nations have demanded Japan apologise.
In 1993 Japan issued an official apology over so-called "comfort women", but parliament never approved it.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe caused uproar earlier this year when he said there was no proof of state involvement - a statement he later played down.
'FORMAL AND SINCERE'
The symbolic, non-binding Canadian motion calls on Japan to "take full responsibility for the involvement of the Japanese Imperial Forces in the system of forced prostitution".
It must offer "a formal and sincere apology expressed in the Diet to all of those who were victims".
Japan said it regretted the vote, and it would not help bilateral relations.
Similar motions have been adopted in the US and the Netherlands.
Speaking to the AFP news agency after the vote, Ms Chow said: "For me, this isn't crimes against 200,000 women. It's crimes against humanity and all of the world's citizens have a responsibility to speak out against it."
"Fifteen-year-old young girls were subjected to torture and raped by countless men for weeks, months and years on end," she added.
The comfort women were forced into brothels for Japanese soldiers in the 1930s and during World War II.
Japan's failure to apologise and issue official compensation remains an irritant in relations with the nations affected.
In South Korea, surviving "comfort women" still demonstrate every Wednesday outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Many did not reveal their involvement for decades out of a sense of shame.
Japan set up a private compensation fund in 1995 as a way of offering recompense without officially acknowledging wrong.
But many women have rejected the offer, saying it should come from the government itself.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/11/29 02:55:48 GMT
© BBC MMVII
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I have just come back from attending the Filipino Women's Network Summit, an amazing four days in Washington DC where strong women gathered on Capital Hill to discuss their work as activists, leaders, working women and business moguls. The group named the 100 most influential Filipina Women in the U.S. and I was honored among them with the "Nicole" an award that "honors Filipina women whose words, actions, and activism, inspire others to act and revolutionize our society's way of understanding traditional beliefs and customs. This category is inspired by "Nicole" who sparked an international dialogue about women's rights, national sovereignty, and international law as she steadfastly pursued justice against her rapists."
Thanks to Marianne Villanueva for nominating me.
More importantly, this award is a working award and we have been asked to choose a protégé to mentor for the next five years. I found this to be an amazing opportunity to share the work and the stories of the lolas with another young woman leader, so I put a call out on my campus at the University of Miami. I was looking for a freshmen or sophomore woman of Filipina descent to mentor as we grow "Friends of Lolas" at the University of Miami.
Below is the winning essay written by Rhea Olegario of Pembroke Pines, Florida. The photo is of the two of us on the night of the gala award ceremony in Washington DC.
Welcome to the struggle, Rhea! Congratulations!
Pinay Protégé Essay
By Rhea Olegario
I can easily recall the first time I heard about the comfort women of WWII. It was during the annual 2007 CFAGA Filipino Independence Day held in my hometown of Pembroke Pines. Wanting to find something to do, my friend and I were passing by the various booths that they had. One, in particular, was called Laban for the Lolas. Not thinking much about it, I probably would have passed it by had not one of the young ladies behind the booth vigorously approach us and inform us of their cause. I remembered feeling ashamed and moved at the same time when I heard about the horrific experiences these comfort women had to go through. Before I always would hear about the injustices occurring throughout the world such as those in Darfur, but it never occurred to me till that point that such injustices could hit right at home. I was ashamed about not knowing sooner about this issue. But I was also moved at how these inspirational and courageous Lolas are standing up along with their supporters to fight for their overdue justice. Recalling dark pasts especially out to the public can never be easy. Further adding to what I learned that day, I see, especially now, how important being informed and sharing information are. Had not that young lady approached me, I wonder how long would I have been ignorant of this issue?
Since my first encounter with the issue, much progress has been made by the Laban for the Lolas—most notably the passing of House Resolution 121 by Congress. Consequently, Laban for the Lolas has taken on a new direction and focus: to eliminate present and future ignorance of the issue of comfort women, especially Filipino comfort women, through the awareness and education of the public and to support the mission of the surviving Filipina comfort women of Lila Filipina, The League of Filipina Grandmothers. It absolutely humbles me to be afforded the opportunity here at the University of Miami to not only encounter for the second time the organization, now named Friends of the Lolas, but also to contribute to the organization in a way like never before. Recently ushered into the world of college, I am quickly becoming acquainted with the idea that one’s role in the future is largely determined by the actions done in the present. Therefore, this opportunity for me to be a significant part of the Friends of the Lolas would guide me into the long-term path I plan to take: Fighting against injustices in the world and aiding and supporting people who desperately need it. It is through my qualifications, experiences, and drive that I find my motivation to actively participate and take part in this urgent and needed cause.
Since High School, I have been involved with many service organizations that I have felt passionately about. In Respect Life and Social Justice, not only did we learn about issues surrounding faith and society, but we also in turn passed on the knowledge and took action through various activities like walks and informational seminars. Additionally, through my favorite project, Hope Outreach, where we mentored young children of low income families, I realized the importance of taking an active role in the community. I began to see the effects of my mere participation in the project: it made the children see that they were special and very much mattered (not that they never did). As my favorite quote by Mahatma Ghandi goes: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” It was through these projects that I discovered my passion to serve and inform the community.
As far as leadership positions go, Editor-in-Chief for my school’s yearbook would be my main experience. Some of my tasks would entail coming up with ideas to write articles on, coordinating events such as Class Picture Day and athletes’ sport photos, and organizing important and numerous items such as Senior ads. With a student body of more than 2000 and a faculty of a little more than 100, it was never easy—intense planning and efficient coordination were a must. As Editor-in-Chief, I dedicated a lot of time into composing our award-winning yearbook. My dedication to the yearbook could be seen through the long hours that I worked. I believe that the skills I learned as Editor-in-Chief for my school yearbook would enable me to coordinate events, organize efficiently important matters, and come up with interesting ideas, especially for fundraising for the Friends of the Lolas.
What mainly fuels my motivation for being an active member, however, is my passion for fighting for justice and human rights. Some of the goals that I have set for myself are to be involved in international organizations where I can aid people, especially those who are suffering from injustices. After reading about the horrific experiences of brutality and systematic rape that Maria Rosa Henson went through, I knew that for comfort women like herself to finally close that unimaginable chapter of their lives, apologies are to be made by those responsible i.e. the Japanese government. With the Japanese government unresponsive to the women’s requests, supporting these amazing women, who have gone through so much, in any way I can would be an honor for me to take on.
I could easily recall the first time I went to the Philippines, a third world country. The homeless children that I saw on the streets are haunting memories that still stick with me today. Nevertheless, I also saw images that made me proud to be a part of this amazing country: I saw like never before the night sky bursting with stars, unhindered by city lights; I saw immense crowds of people of all classes flocking to Church and praying as one; and, most of all I, saw and experienced from my distant relatives the compassion, humility, and warmth that are so indicative of the Filipino people. I am proud to say that I am a Filipino-American. So upon hearing the injustices the Filipino comfort women had to go through like Maria Rosa Henson, I knew then and there that I had to find a way to support them. During the Filipino Independence Day Festival, I supported them by writing a letter and encouraging my friends to do so. However, now with the opportunity to take on a significant role in the organization itself here at the University of Miami campus, I know that I must give everything I can to assist them in anyway so that their plight will never be forgotten by the world. For the country that has given me this rich heritage and for the people who have given me nothing but love and support, I know I would full heartedly and uncompromisingly carry out my role in the Friends of the Lolas to the best of my abilities.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had the opportunity to make history and do the right and noble thing for the 200,000 surviving “Comfort Women” of WWII. But he was stubborn and he missed his chance. It’s a shame, I think. A shame that he didn’t seize the moment. Now it’s too late and he will be remembered as the Prime Minister of Japan who perpetuated the indignities and crimes against humanity, against old ladies whose only mission was to be heard, to be respected and to be apologized to, whose only desire was to stop this crime against humanity from recurring again. I feel for him, for now he has to live with that.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Here's a comment I received from Karmela. She brought up some good questions that I thought I'd share with everyone. Here's her comment and my response:
While I fully support the Lolas and their fight for justice and recognition, I must question the methods being used. Why is this issue of concern to the United States government? They neither participated in nor were victimized by the atrocities. I don't believe that the U.S. political landscape is the correct forum to address this issue. While you may argue that the U.S. is already involved simply by the fact that so many of the Lolas now live here, let's all be realistic. This nation is much, much more concerned with other, more imminent issues such as the war on terror or the immigration issue that hits Americans closer to home.
I'm not saying let's just leave the Lolas' issues alone. What I'm saying is that why isn't this being addressed more on a world stage, i.e., the U.N.? If an apology from Japan is what the Lolas' ultimate goal is, that's the type of thing the United Nations was built to handle.
If this issue has already been brought in front of the U.N., I apologize for my ignorance. Let me just reiterate that I fully support the Lolas' cause; I merely question the tactics used to achieve the goal.
Posted by Karmela to FRIENDS OF LOLAS at August 23, 2007 2:24 PM
Thanks for your comment. The UN has made recommendations to Japan, and Japan has ignored them. If you read Philippine House Res. 124, also on this blog, you'll see a long line of international courts, including Japanese courts, have tried to make this recommendation: That the Japanese government apologize and take responsibility for crimes against humanity.
On July 30th, I sat in the U.S. House of Representatives' gallery and witnessed Congress discuss House Res. 121 as they passed the bill unanimously. I can tell you, from watching the discussion, that U.S. involvement, through House Resolution 121, was a message from one friendly nation to another. Many Congress persons, including my representative, Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen,the senior ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, stated that we are good friends with Japan, strong allies, and friends need to be honest with one another -- when we do something wrong or see our friends doing something wrong -- it is our obligation, as a good friend to point it out. A good friend receiving that advice might still be in denial, at first, but at some point, you hear your friend out and you respond. We are waiting for that response.
In addition to this gesture between friends, I witnessed our Congress state for the record, that Japanese Imperial Army abducted and enslaved over 200,000 women and girls during World War II. No matter how much the government of Japan denies this truth, we now have a historical record (and several Congress persons eloquently spoke about this) challenging Japan's denial. The women have been standing before the Japanese courts, before gates of their embassies and at conferences trying to set the record straight, but Japan has literally ignored them. Now the U.S. has gone on record about this human rights violation and many other nations are well on their way to contributing to this historical account so the women's experiences cannot be washed away.
Lastly, what passing House Resolution 121 in the U.S. Congress has done, is it has brought awareness and light to this subject matter, it is an avenue for educating those who have not heard of the plight of the former "Comfort Women." The story has been kept a secret by the women and their families -- sometimes out of shame, and at times it is because Japan has worked hard to deny and cover up the truth. But for the most part, this issue has not had a venue or reason to be taught outside of the small communities of activists like Gabriela Network, babae and Filipina for Rights and Empowerment. But U.S. involvement has brought this issue forward. Everyone should be involved. This is a human rights issue. It is about people and what we have done to and allowed to do to one another. The passing of House Resolution 121 has inspired other nations to make like resolutions -- among them Canada's Motion 291 and the Philippines House Resolution 124. I am grateful for the hard work of all U.S. citizens who took part in passing this bill -- Congress yes, but private citizens too -- Annabel Park, Chejin Park, Jonghwa Lee, Eric Byler, Mindy Kotler, OK Cha Soh, Rita Wong and others of the 121 Coalition -- my own students -- Elaine Ruda, Amberly Reynolds, Marra Wilcox, and Layla Dousany.
The plan is that we are all going back to the United Nations. Congressmen and women -- Representatives like Falmeomavaega, Honda, Lantos and Lee -- have publicly stated this resolution is only the first step. Next step, UN again, but this time more nations will be aware of the stories of the women and I am hoping it will be harder for Japan to ignore their recommendations.
I am so proud to be a FilAm woman and see this announcement by organizations like Gabriela Network, babae and Filipina for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE). I hope it is the first of many teach-ins. It is about time that we start educating one another, beyond our own communities. The lolas' stories are among the 200,000 stories of women and girls taken during that war. There are women in China, Korea, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Netherlands who have their own stories of WWII and the Japanese Imperial Army's actions against them. We all need to open our eyes.
I invite you all to join me with Friends of the Lolas.
Thanks again for your comment.
M. Evelina Galang
Thursday, August 23, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Donna Denina, Vice Chair – Pinay 206.438.3521
Valerie Francisco, Chair – FiRE 925-726-5768
Marisa Mariano, Chair – babae 415.333.6267
Progressive Filipino women's organizations babae – San Francisco, FiRE (Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment) – New York, and Pinay sa Seattle (in collaboration with progressive Korean American organization, Sahngnoksu), member organizations of Bayan-USA, launches a nationally coordinated campaign today to demand justice for Comfort Women. During WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army abducted and repeatedly raped a reported 100,000-250, 000 young girls and women in Japanese occupied colonies and territories including China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
In 1992, Maria Rosa Luna Henson, at the age of 65, was the first Filipino comfort woman to publicly come forward with her story. This encouraged more and more women in the Philippines to emerge from almost 50 years of silence since the end of WWII. On June 25, 1994, LILA-PILIPINA was formally launched and founded by comfort women survivors and members of the Task Force on Filipino Comfort Women. To this day, hundreds of surviving comfort women continue to seek an apology from the Japanese government, demand that their stories be included in Japanese history textbooks, and that they be adequately compensated for themselves and their families.
Ritchelda Estremadura, Executive Director of LILA-PILIPINA states, "Justice remains elusive for the Filipina 'comfort women.' Many of the Lolas have died but we must continue the fight for justice. Otherwise, we will not learn from the lessons of history and more women will suffer the fate of 'comfort women'."
Last month, the United States passed House Resolution 121, which stipulates that Japan officially acknowledge, apologize, and take responsibility for their role in the atrocities committed against women and children during WWII. However, despite the passing of this resolution, we remain steadfast in our fight to end all wars of aggression being led by the United States so that crimes committed against innocent women and children may never happen again.
In light of the passage of HR 121, Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela Women's Party filed a House Resolution on August 13, 2007 urging the Philippine Government for Japan to "FORMALLY AKNOWLEDGE, APOLOGIZE AND ACCEPT ITS RESPONSIBILITY OVER THE SEXUAL SLAVERY OF YOUNG WOMEN COMMONLY KNOWN AS COMFORT WOMEN BY THE JAPANESE IMPERIAL ARMY DURING WORLD WAR II AND PROVIDE COMPENSATION TO THE VICTIMS." The women's partylist group has also filed House Bill 1136 "An Act Providing for the Inclusion in the History Books of Elementary, Secondary and Collegiate Curricula the Lives and Heroism of Filipino Comfort Women during the Japanese Occupation and Appropriating Funds Therefore".
Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan says that "passing the resolution will help boost initiatives of Japanese legislators seeking to pass a bill entitled Promotion of Resolution for Issues Concerning Victims of Wartime Sexual Coercion Act. The bill was introduced last June 9, 2004 to the House of Councilors in Japan, jointly by the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, and by independent senators."
Please join babae, FiRE, and Pinay in a nationally coordinated campaign to seek justice for the comfort women and to demand that the Government of the Philippines must not turn their backs on the heinous crimes of sexual violence afflicted upon their own citizens. As Filipinas who uphold the rights and welfare of women all over the world, we are united that the fight for justice goes beyond just an apology and acknowledgement in text books. We must continue to put an end to all wars of aggression and pressure the US backed Arroyo regime to send all US troops out of the Philippines.
Events and actions spanning 3 cities nationwide will take place this week as a continuation of the Global Action Day Demonstration on the issue of "comfort women" which began on August 15th. Please contact the organizations listed below for more information on how you may be involved in your local area.
NO TO WARS OF AGGRESSION!! !
NO TO ANOTHER GENERATION OF COMFORT WOMEN!
US TROOPS OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES!
San Francisco - babae
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Film showing about surviving comfort women of WWII
Doors open at 6:30pm
Filipino Community Center
35 San Juan Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112
Light refreshments will be served, followed by an open discussion, and updates on the issue.
*this is a FREE event, but donations are kindly accepted!
Contact: Marisa Mariano - 415.333.6267
New York – FiRE (Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment)
Tuesday, August 21st 7-9 pm
Film showing and discussion
International Action Center (IAC)
55 West 17th Street between 5th and 6th Ave, 5th Floor
Take 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, W to 14th Street/Union Square
THIS EVENT IS FREE! Contributions welcomed!
Contact: Hanalei Ramos - 201.790.0995
Seattle - PINAY sa Seattle
Friday, August 24, 2007 6-9pm
Comfort Women Teach-In
Film Showing and Discussion in collaboration with Sahngnoksu
2100 24th Ave S
Community Room B
This is a FREE EVENT
Contact: Donna Denina - 206.438.3521
Monday, August 20, 2007
When I was in Manila, I shared with the Lolas of LILA Pilipina all the work that Congressman Mike Honda, House Committee of Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were doing in conjunction with so many American citizens who were in support of House Res. 121. Little did I realize that I would be sitting in the gallery on July 30, 2007, witnessing the discussion and voice vote.
While the women and supporters of LILA Pilipina were excited about our activities, they made it clear that the passing of U.S. House Res. 121 was not the end of their struggle. When the bill passed with an unanimous voice vote on July 30th, 2007, Congress stood before the world and supported surviving WWII "Comfort Women" and asked their good friends, the Japanese government, to choose the noble action. Apologize. Unequivocally. As each Congress person stood and said, "I rise today in support of House Resolution 121," my heart expanded. For the lolas, the bill's passing validated all their hard work and they too celebrated, but they also understood their battle was just heating up. On August 13, 2007, six representatives from the Republic of the Philippines 14th Congress, including Gabriela party-list Congresswomen Liza Larzoga-Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan introduced House Res. 124 to the Philippines House of Representatives. Below is a draft of the resolution. If you read it, you'll get a sense of the "Comfort Women" history and the struggle in the courts around the globe. There is plenty of evidence, and even the courts of Japan have seen it. Since then, the Lolas of LILA Pilipina have been very busy, standing with their friends before the Japanese Embassy in Manila, making their demands known.
Republic of the Philippines
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Quezon City, Metro Manila
First Regular Session
HOUSE RESOLUTION 124
Introduced by Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives LIZA LARGOZA-MAZA and LUZVIMINDA ILAGAN, Representative EDUARDO C. ZIALCITA, Bayan Muna Representatives SATUR C. OCAMPO and TEODORO A. CASINO, and Anak Pawis Representative CRISPIN BELTRAN:
RESOLUTION EXPRESSING THE SENSE OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES THAT THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT URGES THE GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN TO FORMALLY ACKNOWLEDGE, APOLOGIZE AND ACCEPT ITS RESPONSIBILITY OVER THE SEXUAL SLAVERY OF YOUNG WOMEN COMMONLY KNOWN AS COMFORT WOMEN BY THE JAPANESE IMPERIAL ARMY DURING WORLD WAR II AND PROVIDE COMPENSATION TO THE VICITIMS IN THE LIGHT OF THE ADOPTION BY THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF HOUSE RESOLUTION 121 WHICH STATES THAT JAPAN SHOULD FORMALLY ACKNOWLEDGE, APOLOGIZE AND ACCEPT HISTORICAL RESPONSIBILITY IN CLEAR AND UNEQUIVOCAL MANNER OVER ITS ARMED FORCE’S COERCION OF YOUNG WOMEN INTO SEXUAL SLAVERY DURING ITS COLONIAL AND WARTIME OCCUPATION OF ASIA, AND IN THE LIGHT OF THE LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES IN THE HOUSE OF COUNCILORS OF JAPAN SEEKING APOLOGY, COMPENSATION AND IMMEDIATE RESOLUTION OF ISSUES CONCERNING COMFORT WOMEN.
WHEREAS, the recognition of human rights is a valuable tenet in the 1987 Philippine Constitution which states: “the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights” (Article II, Section II);
WHEREAS, it has been more than a decade since the World War II comfort women started clamoring for an official apology and legal redress from the government of Japan for the unimaginable suffering they experienced in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army;
WHEREAS, the Japanese government recognized the issues concerning comfort women as a social problem in June 1990;
WHEREAS, after realizing the importance of the matter, the Japanese government proceeded to conduct a research, after which, it admitted its involvement in the sexual slavery case, expressed its remorse for the matter of comfort women and apologized for it in August 1993;
WHEREAS, Japanese public officials and private officials have recently expressed their desire to retract or water down its 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the “comfort women.” The 1993 statement of Secretary Kono expressed the sincere apologies of the government of Japan for the ordeal of the women victims of military sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army;
WHEREAS, the Japanese government claimed that it had no obligation to provide compensation for the victims since the matter was already settled when the San Francisco Treaty and other bilateral treaties were signed;
WHEREAS, the UN Report of Miss Radhika Coomaraswamy, the then Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, to the Commission of Human Rights in 1996 urged the Japanese to compensate the former comfort women while Miss Gay McDougal’s UN Report in 1998 severely criticized the Japanese government in its handling of the cases of the comfort women and strongly recommended that Japan raised the issue of compensation to the state-level;
WHEREAS, the Japanese government’s response to the mounting international pressure was the creation of the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF) which collected “sympathy money” from Japanese citizens, thereby evading its legal responsibilities as state in addressing the cases of the comfort women. The Asian Women’s Fund has raised U.S. $5,700,000 to extend “atonement” from the Japanese people to the comfort women. The said fund ended on March 31, 2007 and the fund was to be disbanded on that date;
WHEREAS, in April 1998, the South Korean government issued an announcement in which it insisted that the Japanese government decide to give the former comfort women approximately 3 million yen of monetary support;
WHEREAS, the Taiwanese government took similar measures by conferring 2 million yen for the former comfort women to substitute for AWF’s money while seeking a state level compensation and apology from the Japanese government;
WHEREAS, a bill entitled “Promotion of Resolution for Issues Concerning Victims of Wartime Sexual Coercion Act” was introduced to the House of Councilors in Japan, jointly by the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, and independent senators last June 9, 2004. The same bill was filed last March 21 and November 14, 2001 and January 21, 2003. However, the House of Councilors failed to adopt the bill;
WHEREAS, the main objective of the bill filed at the Japanese House of Councilors was to take immediate steps to restore the dignity and honor of women victims of wartime sexual slavery of the Japanese Imperial Army during the World War II. It aimed to provide the necessary fundamental grounds for the resolution of the issues concerning the victims of wartime sexual coercion that will improve the relationship of the peoples of the concerned nations and will enable Japan to occupy an honored place in the international community;
WHEREAS, the bill indicated measures to restore the honor which includes the announcement of the Japanese government of an apology for the violation and dignity of the victims of wartime sexual slavery and the implementation of necessary means to immediately restore their honor, including monetary compensation;
WHEREAS, the same measure will again be filed at the House of Councilors of Japan;
WHEREAS, the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea had already approved their resolution recommending the Japanese Diet to consider and enact the bill on the promotion for the resolution of issues concerning victims of wartime sexual coercion;
WHEREAS, the U.S. House of Representatives on July 31, 2007, approved its House Resolution 121 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 form the 1930’s through the duration of World War II;
WHEREAS, the Government of Japan is a signatory to 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, by following the step of the U.S. House of Representatives in passing Resolution No. 121, the Philippine government is demonstrating its earnest interest to help Filipino comfort women achieve justice they deserve and reclaim their dignity and that of the Filipino people;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES expresses its sense that the Philippine government urges the government of Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize and accept its responsibility over the sexual slavery of young women commonly known as comfort women by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and provide compensation to the victims in the light of the adoption by the U.S. House of Representatives of House Resolution 121which states that Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in clear and unequivocal manner over its armed force’s coercion of young women into sexual slavery during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia, and in the light of the legislative initiatives in the House of Councilors of Japan seeking apology, compensation and immediate resolution of the issues concerning comfort women.
LUZVIMINDA C. ILAGAN
EDUARDO C. ZIALCITA
SATUR C. OCAMPO
TEODORO A. CASINO
CRISPIN B. BELTRAN
Friday, August 17, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Lola Narcisa Claveria, along with other members and advocates of LILA Pilipina, protest before the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines. She is still waiting for a direct and unequivocal apology from Japan.
The PHILIPPINE INQUIRER reports that Philippine Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of the Gabriela Women’s party-list, Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna (People First), Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Eduardo Zialcita of Parañaque, and Neil Tupas of Iloilo filed Resolution 124 following the US House of Representatives’ adoption of a similar measure.
By Maila Ager
Last updated 06:35pm (Mla time) 08/13/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- A resolution urging the Japanese government to formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept its responsibility for sexual slavery in World War II and compensate the victims was filed at the House of Representatives on Monday.
Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of the Gabriela Women’s party-list, Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna (People First), Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Eduardo Zialcita of Parañaque, and Neil Tupas of Iloilo filed Resolution 124 following the US House of Representatives’ adoption of a similar measure.
Last July 31, the US House approved Resolution 121 expressing its sense that the government of Japan “should formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as comfort women,” during World War II.
“Following the step of the US House of Representatives in passing Resolution 121, the Philippine government is demonstrating its earnest interest to help the Filipino comfort women achieve the justice they deserve and reclaim their dignity and that one of the Filipino people,” Resolution 124 said.
It has been more than a decade now, it noted, since the victims started clamoring for an official apology and legal redress from the Japanese government for the “unimaginable suffering they experienced in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.”
And while the Japanese government recognizes the issues concerning comfort women, the resolution lamented that it continued to assert that it had no obligation to compensate the victims since the matter had already been settled by the signing of the San Francisco Treaty and other bilateral treaties.
For Immediate Release
August 14, 2007
Contact: Faith Santilla, email@example.com, (626) 353-2649; Milady Quito, firstname.lastname@example.org
GABNET 3 RETURN TO THE US AFTER BEING CASUALTIES OF THE SO-CALLED PHILIPPINE “ANTI-TERROR LAW”
GABRIELA Network (GABNet) National Chairperson and USC Professor Dr. Annalisa Enrile was greeted by GABNet members, friends, family, lawyers and members of the media as she exited US Customs at the Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX this evening. She and two other GABNet leaders, Judith Mirkinson and Ninotchka Rosca, all landed in the United States at approximately 8:30 PM local time, with Mirkinson and Rosca arriving in San Francisco.
At Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, the three human rights activists attempted to board flights back home to the US despite the fact that they had been placed on a “watchlist” by Philippine authorities. The women spent over an hour besieged by smug immigration authorities at the Ninoy Aquino Airport, until GABRIELA Women’s Partylist Representative Liza Maza and GABRIELA Attorney Alnie Foja intervened.
In spite of being denied the right to board her first flight on August 5th, US-born Enrile and the two other women were never informed of the reason their names appeared on a watchlist. The only reason they were targeted, the women speculate, is because of their efforts to defend human rights in the Philippines. “I am glad to be back home,” Dr. Enrile states, “but this will not discourage me from going back to the Philippines and exposing the tyrannical policies of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime.” Since President Macapagal Arroyo took office in 2001, there have been approximately 900 murders and disappearances of activists, clergy, labor leaders and their families, 90 of which were GABRIELA members or affiliates. The Philippines is also cited as being the most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq, according to the International Press Institute.
The timing of the intimidation and harassment of the GABNet 3 comes at a time when Macapagal-Arroyo’s controversial Human Security Act, also known as the Anti-Terror law, goes into effect. The much criticized Act contains language akin to martial law, such as the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, warrantless arrests, and so-called preventive detention.”
GABNet is a Philippine-U.S. solidarity mass organization that was established in 1989. ####
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
14 August 2007
STILL NO JUSTICE FOR LOLAS 62 YEARS AFTER END OF WWII
The elderly women of Lila Pilipina, organization of Filipino victims of Japanese war time atrocities, and members of the militant women’s group, GABRIELA held a protest action in front of the Japanese Embassy today in commemoration of the 62nd Anniversary of the Second World War.
“Justice remains elusive for the Filipina ‘comfort women.’ Many of the lola’s have died but we must continue the fight for justice. Otherwise, we will not learn from the lessons of history and more women will suffer the fate of ‘comfort women’.” This was according to Ritchelda Extremadura, Executive Director of Lila Pilipina.
“The fight for justice of the lola’s should be the fight of all Filipino women. Calling for justice means calling for an end to the victimization of women in times of war. It means calling for an end to wars of aggression,” said Joms Salvador, spokesperson of GABRIELA.
According to Salvador, studies show that 80% of those affected by war – killed, injured and traumatized – are women and children.
Meanwhile, Lila Pilipina lauds the Gabriela Women’s Party for filing a House Resolution for the Philippine Government to urge the Government of Japan to “formally acknowledge, apologize and accept its responsibility over the sexual slavery of young women commonly known as comfort women.”
“It has been decades since the first Filipino ‘comfort woman’ came out and sought justice but the Philippine government has yet to officially take a stand on the issue. It is shameful for any government which cannot stand up for its citizens aggrieved by foreign military,” said Extremadura.
The House Resolution was filed yesterday by Representatives Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party.
The protest action of Lila Pilipina and GABRIELA is also part of the Global Action Day Demonstration on the issue of “comfort women” on August 15. Simultaneous demonstrations are expected in Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, Seoul and Busan in South Korea, Australia, Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Taiwan and USA.
Ritchelda Extremadura, Lila Pilipina Executive Director, 0915-5379579
Joms Salvador, GABRIELA Spokesperson, 371-2302 / 0918-6254080
MANILA -- Six lawmakers signed a resolution filed on Monday by a women’s partylist group asking Japan for a formal apology and acceptance of responsibility over the sexual slavery of young women by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
“It has been over two decades since Filipino comfort women first found the courage to step up, reveal their ordeal and seek justice. It is indeed high time that the Philippine government take concrete steps to support our comfort women,” said Representatives Lisa Maza and Luz Ilagan of Gabriela party-list in a statement.
The resolution was also signed by Congressmen Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna; Crispin Beltran of Anak Pawis ; Eduardo Zialcita of Paranaque and Niel Tupas of Ilo-Ilo.
”Last month, the US House Representatives has passed Resolution 121 calling on Japan to acknowledge,apologize and accept historical responsibility for its war crimes.What has the Philippine government done for our comfort women?” Maza asked.
Rep.Luzviminda Ilagan, explained that passing the resolution will help boost initiatives of Japanese legislators seeking to pass a bill entitled “Promotion of Resolution for Issues Concerning Victims of Wartime Sexual Coercion Act."
Sunday, August 12, 2007
August 12, 2007
On August 5, 2007, agents of the Philippine government prevented one of us from boarding her return flight to the United States. The reason given was that she was on a nebulous "watchlist" and needed clearance from various and diverse Philippine government agencies. We would learn, subsequently, that two of the GABNet members visiting the Philippines – International Relations Officer Judith Mirkinson and nternational Spokesperson of the GABRIELA Purple Rose Campaign Against Sex trafficking of Filipinas Ninotchka Rosca -- were also on the watchlist, which contained over 500 names.
Considering the surrealistic situation we find ourselves in, where no one seems to be able to explain the nature of this "watchlist," the basis for being included in the "watchlist," and what the process is for getting "cleared" and off the list, even of who is actually responsible for the list, we would not be surprised if the list included imaginary men and women.
We would probably have looked at this experience as some kind of Harry Potter adventure, were it not for the perilous state of human rights in the Philippines, where some 90 women activists, organizers and leaders have been assassinated out of a total of nearly a thousand murdered, and where the second highest number of writers and media people have been killed in the world today. We are constrained to view with deep alarm the impunity with which the Philippine government has violated Dr. Enrile's civil and human rights, and the naked shamelessness with which it threatens to violate the civil and human rights of Ms. Mirkinson and Ms. Rosca, as well as various and diverse people on the so-called "watchlist," "blacklist" and "holdlist."
We are absolutely sure we are under attack because of our work as members of the US-Philippine women's solidarity mass organization GABRIELA Network which has consistently upheld militant sisterhood with GABRIELA Philippines for 18 years and with the Gabriela Women's Party since the latter's formation. We are absolutely certain that this violation of our civil and political rights is occasioned by our work in organizing women and women of Philippine ancestry; by our decade-long work against the traffic of Filipinas; and by our commitment to the securing of basic rights and the expansion of freedoms for all women, especially the women of the Philippines, as well as for the nation as a whole.
Because of this track record, certain personalities in the Philippine government have chosen to express their hatred of women and of freedom by violating and seeking to violate our human rights. We say to them, as well as pledge to those who support and continue to support us, that harassment and intimidation will fail. For far too long have working women been disempowered, dispossessed and reified. Not even by a single second will intimidation, harassment and human rights violations cause us to cease our work on behalf of the emancipation of womankind.
Governments of countries like the Philippines which survive on selling women in the international labor and sex trade markets absolutely hate and wish to destroy women like us, who insist on respect, dignity and equality for womankind. Governments of countries like the Philippines which consider women to be a disposable and surplus population absolutely hate and wish to destroy women like us who insist on an equal share of social, political and economic power for womankind. The violation of our rights as women and as human beings is therefore simply a small part of a general state of disrespect for human rights and women's rights prevalent in countries under governments like that of the Philippines.
We are deeply moved that our particular case has found resonance among peoples and organizations the world over. We thank GABRIELA Philippines, Gabriela Women's Party and most of all, our heart-sisters in GABRIELA Network for the support, outrage and clamor on our behalf. We thank ANSWER, friends in the National Lawyers Guild, the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada, Justice for Filipino-American Veterans, BAYAN Philippines, Pacific-Asian and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry, and others too numerous to name, for their support. Our most profound gratitude goes to individuals and organizations who approached this issue with respect for our persons, our situation and our work.
We wish to assure everyone we will continue to seek redress of our grievance and to assert our civil, political, human and women's rights. --###
GABRIELA Purple Rose Campaign
Friday, August 10, 2007
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD.
Here's a call to action from our sisters at GABNet. Gabriela is the grassroots feminist organization that worked hard to seek surviving "Comfort Women" in the Philippines and to encourage the victims to come forward so they might speak for themselves and for all of us. They are the original sponsoring organization for LILA Pilipina and continue to be the sponsoring organization for LILA Pilipina. GABNet is the United States extension of Gabriela. We know the lolas because of Gabriela.
Please use your words in support.
In peace, solidarity and respect,
Dear GABNet members, allies and friends:
On August 5, 2007, GABRIELA Network USA National Chairperson Dr. Annalisa Enrile was barred from leaving the Philippines. She was not allowed to board her return flight home to the US. She was told that she is on a "watchlist." Two other GABNet women--Judith Mirkinson and Ninotchka Rosca--are reportedly on the same "watchlist."
Dr. Enrile, Ms. Mirkinson and Ms. Rosca were in the Philippines, along with other GABNet members and officers, for the 10th bi-annual Women's Solidarity Affair in the Philippines. The GABNet 3 also led the GABNet-co-sponsored human rights mission to the Philippines with US women lawyers in May-June 2006.
We are demanding that the Philippine government "release" the GABNet 3 and allow them to return home. We need your HELP in pressuring the US Embassy and the US Ambassador to the Philippines to act on behalf of these 3 US citizens/permanent resident and demand that the Philippines "release" them at once.
ACTION - WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY, AUGUST 9TH: FAX the US Embassy, American Citizen Service, 011 63 2 522-3242 and/or Ambassador Kenney, 011 63 2 522-4361. Below is a sample letter. Please re-word. And please distribute this call to action far and wide. Stay tuned for more action/s.
In militant sisterhood...
Maureen Ivy Quicho
Coordinator, GABNet Los Angeles
GABRIELA Network - Los Angeles Chapter
A US-Philippine Women's Solidarity Mass Organization
PO Box 3032
Cerritos, CA 90703-3032
*** GABRIELA Network is a Philippine-US women's solidarity mass organization since 1989. GABNet provides the means by which Filipinas in the US can empower themselves, functions as training ground for women's leadership, and articulates the women's point of view. GABNet effects change through organizing, educating, fundraising, networking, and advocacy.
It also commemorates Gabriela Silang, known as one of the first and fiercest women generals in the Philippines who led the longest series of successful revolts against 18th Century Spanish colonizers.
GABNet-US is an all-volunteer organization of women with chapters in Chicago, Irvine, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, Portland, San Diego, and San Francisco/Bay Area,
Friday, August 3, 2007
above: 121 Coalition leader Annabel Park, surviving "Comfort Woman" Lee Yong-Soo and myself, M. Evelina Galang after the historic House of Representative vote to pass House Res. 121.
Inside the carpet was royal blue. The high domed-ceilings bore historic images the colors of antique America. We looked down into the room and saw rows of empty seats, places where the House of Representatives sat. A handful of them were scattered among the floor, sitting under bright pockets of light, settled into dark wood desks and thick carved chairs. From the gallery, I could see the back of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, senior ranking member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, my Coral Gables representative.
We joined fifty more coalition members on the right balcony facing the Speaker of the House. Across from us were another fifty Asian Americans. A series of tourists shuffled in and out of rows, sometimes whispering, sometimes pushing loudly on doors and backs of chairs.
Across from me, a football field away, with the House of Representatives below us Annabel Park, 121 National Coalition leader, crawled from seat to seat, strategizing with other coalition members. Lee Yong-Soo, the only surviving “Comfort Woman” present was sitting in the second row directly across from me. A pink shawl wrapped around her torso as if to mark her as our special angel. It seemed to me, there was light all around her. She looked so much smaller than the rest. A young Korean woman rested her head on the old woman’s shoulder, and whispered translations in her ear.
Below us the Representatives began to rise and speak.
The tourists came and went.
My eyes went back and forth – from the shock of Chairman Tom Lantos’ white hair, to the movement of Congressman Mike Honda running back and forth across the floor, to the steady form of Representative Ros-Lehtinen as she delivered her address. And in between the movement on the House Floor, I kept my eye on Lee Yong-Soo.
I watched the way her body shifted and the way the pink shawl fell and dipped about her body. Were the words moving her? Was she uncomfortable? Could she hear? I wondered what it was like to have these American words turned inside out and shaped into Korean and hissed into your ear? Now and then she dabbed her eye with a white handkerchief.
What would it be like to fill these empty seats up with 200,000 spirits – young girls, old women, some of them alive and breathing like Lee Yong-Soo and some of them shapeless forms of white light, now spinning balls of energy, now ghosts. What would it be like to fly the remaining lolas of LILA Pilipina to Washington DC – maybe twenty of them -- and seat them closest to the railings parallel to the Speaker of the House? They would know from the way the Congresspersons delivered their words what was the truth, if they were supporting them or fighting them.
As I listened to the speakers rise, I imagined their words loose and dancing across the room, transforming into each of the 200,000 women’s mother tongue – Tagalog, Kapampangan, Ilocano. Chinese, Korean, Japanese. Dutch, Malaysian, English.
How long they’ve waited to hear these words – in any language, at any time. How long. How long they've waited for Japan to wake up, to hear them, to apologize. Will it happen now?
Later that afternoon, I stood next to Lee Yong-Soo amid the other 121 Coalition members. Under the hot Washington sun, we held a press conference, with our spokesperson, Daniel Lee before us and the others surrounding us. I looked into her eyes and squeezed her hand. I leaned into her and I whispered as if praying, “Thank you.” I did not know her Korean words, nor did she speak my English or my mixed up version of Tagalog. Still, she pressed her face against mine. She kissed my cheek.
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
Published: August 1, 2007
TOKYO, Wednesday, Aug. 1 — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed some irritation on Tuesday at the resolution approved by the House of Representatives in Washington that calls on Japan to acknowledge its wartime sex slavery. His reaction indicated strongly that the Japanese government would not offer surviving victims an official apology.
“The resolution’s approval was regrettable,” said Mr. Abe, who caused a furor in Asia and the United States in March by denying that the Japanese military had directly coerced women into sex slavery in World War II.
News of the approval, which had been expected, came as Mr. Abe faced more calls to resign as prime minister after the crushing defeat of his governing Liberal Democratic Party in the election on Sunday for the upper house of Parliament.
On Wednesday morning, Norihiko Akagi, the scandal-ridden agriculture minister, resigned, admitting that he had contributed to Mr. Abe’s loss on Sunday.
Asked whether he would comply with the House resolution’s demand for an official apology, Mr. Abe said: “The 20th century was an era in which human rights were violated. I would like to make the 21st century into an era with no human rights violations.”
On Monday, the House unanimously passed the nonbinding resolution strongly urging the Japanese government to “formally acknowledge” and “apologize” for its military’s “coercion of women into sexual slavery.” Japan had lobbied hard against the resolution in Washington, warning that it could harm relations.
Mr. Abe has expressed sympathy for the former sex slaves. But he has consistently refused to acknowledge the military’s role in directly coercing women into sex slavery despite historical evidence and the testimony of many of the women.
Some of the former sex slaves, known euphemistically as “comfort women” in Japan, and their advocates welcomed the resolution. But they expressed anger at Mr. Abe’s response.
“Abe denies that they were the ones who violated the women,” said Jan Ruff O’Herne, 84, a Dutch woman who was forced into sex slavery in Indonesia. “I didn’t expect anything better from him than that.”
“But this resolution puts enormous pressure on the Japanese government,” Ms. Ruff said by phone from her home in Adelaide, Australia. “I’m still hoping that something will happen because the women are getting old, and we deserve a proper apology.”
Gil Won-ok, 78, a South Korean who was forced into sex slavery in northeast China, said from Seoul, “Truth survives and lies never win.”
Parliament has never endorsed an official apology and acknowledgment of its sex slavery, the central demand in the House resolution, though past prime ministers have issued letters of apology to some former sex slaves.
This spring, Mr. Abe rejected any demand for an apology. But since then, he has avoided discussing the issue in detail. He has repeated that many human rights violations occurred in the last century, angering former sex slaves and their supporters who say his comments were meant to play down Japan’s crimes.
“Abe really does not know his history,” said Nelia Sancho, leader of Lolas Kampanyera, a group supporting former sex slaves in Manila. “In order to create a world without human rights violations, each state has to learn from its past mistakes and, most importantly, it has to redress its past violations. Until that is done, the 21st century will not become an era with no human rights violations.”
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
15th District - CALIFORNIA
For Immediate Release Contact: Jennifer VanderHeide
August 1, 2007 202.225.2631
HOUSE PASSES COMFORT WOMEN RESOLUTION
Washington DC - This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed unanimously H.Res. 121, a resolution calling on the government of Japan to deliver an apology for its sexual enslavement of “comfort women” during World War II. The House of Representatives has never before considered such a resolution, which garnered 168 bipartisan cosponsors and was not opposed on the House floor during its consideration.
Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15), sponsor of the bill, made the following statement upon the bill’s passage:
“Today is a truly historic occasion. I am thrilled that the Members of the House of Representatives passed H.Res. 121. In doing so, this deliberative body sent a clear message to our good friend, the government of Japan, that historical reconciliation is not just a concept to be championed, but has very real consequences in the lives of the many women institutionally victimized during World War II.
“The Japanese Imperial Armed Forces coerced some 200,000 ‘comfort women’ into sexual slavery. The women endured gang rape, forced abortions, humiliation, and sexual violence resulting in mutilation, death, or eventual suicide. To this date, they have still not received a proper apology from the government of Japan. The passage of H.Res. 121 marks an important step forward in the healing process for these women, and brings us closer to demanding accountability and justice for present-day crimes against women and young girls. One need only look to Darfur, Bosnia, and East Timor for contemporary examples of such abuses. Historical reconciliation is crucial to prevent future atrocities.
“Supporters of H.Res. 121 flew to Washington, DC for this momentous occasion from all over the country. Community advocates, joined by Ms. Yong-Soo Lee, a survivor of the ‘comfort stations,’ watched with strong emotions from the House gallery as Members of Congress spoke in support of their cause. I myself witnessed the beginnings of the reconciliation and healing process as I embraced Ms. Lee after the voice vote.
“This has been a long personal journey for me, as I have advocated for reconciliation since my time in the California State Assembly. In 1999, I authored Assembly Joint Resolution 27, which called on Congress to urge the Japanese government to issue an apology for the victims of the Rape of Nanking, ‘comfort women,’ and POWs who were used as slave laborers. That resolution was ultimately passed. I also want to recognize the hard work of my former colleague Mr. Lane Evans, who has been a longtime advocate on behalf of the ‘comfort women.’
“Stronger friendships among nations are also forged when we remind each other of our mistakes and share our lessons learned. The twentieth century was full of human rights atrocities during times of war. Only by honoring the memory of these atrocities will we be able to continue challenging nations of today to abide by shared human rights norms. I sincerely hope that the government of Japan will formally, officially, and unambiguously apologize to the comfort women with an open mind and an open heart.”
On Monday, July 30, 2007 I sat in the gallery with 100 other members of the 121 Coalition and I listened to our House of Representatives remark on the need to pass House Res. 121.
After knowing the women of LILA Pilipina for 8 years, after hearing the testimonies and visiting the sites of abduction in the Philippines -- the churches and schools, the town halls and private homes taken from Filipino citizens during the Japanese occupation and turned into "comfort stations," after witnessing the passing of nearly twenty lolas, and fighting in my own private way for the justice of the lolas, I sat and I listened to our leaders express their own understanding of the "Comfort Women" experience.
My heart swelled with the understanding that came from our men and women in Congress. I knew that at the very least, this historic moment was one where the 200,000 women and girls all over Asia were being recognized and honored. I knew that what we were creating a historical record denouncing these inhumane atrocities of war -- abduction and sexual abuse for the comfort of soldiers. No matter how desperately the government of Japan denies the truth, the truth is now on record.
I urge you to read the Congressional Record on House Res. 121, to hear the words of our leaders, our Representatives who have witnessed the testimonies of three women and have explored the history of the "Comfort Women" system and have read the letters and petitions of thousands of their constituents.
It is important to begin the documentation of this history of the "Comfort Women" of World War II.
It was a good day to be in Washington.
Thank you House Speaker Pelosi for bringing House Res. 121 to the floor.
Thank you Chairman Tom Lantos for your leadership and for "ushering" this bill from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs through Congress.
Thank you Congressman Eni Faleomavega, Chairman of the Asia, Pacific and Global Environment Subcommittee for your compassionate leadership.
Thank you Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, ranking senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and our Congresswoman from Florida for your keen insight and steady leadership on this matter.
Thank you Congressman Mike Honda for never giving up on this issue, for authoring House Res. 121 and honoring all 200,000 women and girls who were taken against their will.
Thank you to the 167 bi-partisan co-sponsors of this most historic bill.
Your words are powerful tools. Thank you.
Read the transcripts and see what I mean.
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD—HOUSE pgs. H8870-H8876 July 30, 2007
SENSE OF HOUSE THAT JAPAN SHOULD APOLOGIZE FOR ITS IMPERIAL ARMED FORCE’S COERCION OF YOUNG WOMEN INTO SEXUAL SLAVERY
Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 121) 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 930s through the duration of World War II, as amended.
The Clerk read the title of the resolution. The text of the resolution is as follows:
H. RES. 121
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 on women of armed conflict;
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 United States-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of United States security interests in Asia and the Pacific and is fundamental to regional stability and prosperity;
Whereas, despite the changes in the post-cold war strategic landscape, the United States -Japan alliance continues to be based on shared vital interests and values in the Asia-Pacific region, including the preservation and promotion of political and economic freedoms, support for human rights and democratic institutions, and the securing of prosperity for the people of both countries and the international community;
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’’, came to an end on March 31, 2007, and the Fund has been 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 Forces’ 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) would help to resolve recurring questions about the sincerity and status of prior statements if the Prime Minister of Japan were to make such an apology as a public
statement 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’’.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from California (Mr. LANTOS) and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. ROS- LEHTINEN) each will control 20 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.
Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the resolution under consideration.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?
There was no objection.
Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this resolution, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, let me first commend my good friend and our distinguished colleague, the gentleman from California (Mr. HONDA), for introducing this very important resolution and for all his hard work to give voice to the so-called ‘‘comfort women.’’
Mr. Speaker, the true strength of a nation is tested when it is forced to confront the darkest chapters in its history. Will it have the courage to face up to the truth of its own past, or will it run from that truth in the foolish hope that truth will fade with time.
The Government of Japan’s unwillingness to offer a formal and unequivocal apology to the women forced by its Army to be sex slaves during World War II stands in stark contrast to Japan’s positive role in the world today.
Japan is a proud global leader and a valued ally of the United States, which makes its unwillingness to account honestly for this part of its past all the more perplexing.
The U.S.-Japan relationship, Mr. Speaker, is the bedrock of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Our reliance and friendship are based on mutual respect and admiration. And together, we have helped promote our shared values of democracy, economic opportunity and human rights throughout Asia. Yet Japan’s refusal to make an official government apology once and for all to the women who suffered as so-called ‘‘comfort women’’ is disturbing to everyone who values the U.S.-Japan relationship.
No nation can disregard its own past, neither the actions of a few nor the actions of many. Inhumane deeds should be fully acknowledged, a spotlight shined on the whole truth. This is essential to national reconciliation, and it helps the victims to heal. Withholding that acknowledgment only compounds the cruelty.
Post-war Germany, with the most horrendous crimes in its history, made the right choice. Japan, on the other hand, has actively promoted historical amnesia.
The facts, Mr. Speaker, are plain. There can be no denying that the Japanese Imperial military coerced thousands upon thousands of Asian women, primarily Chinese and Koreans, into sexual slavery during the Second World War.
The continued efforts by some in Japan to distort and deny history and play a game of blame-the-victim are nauseating. Those who posit that all of the ‘‘comfort women’’ were happily complicit and acting of their own accord simply don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘‘rape.’’
On June 14, members of the Japanese Government took out a shocking advertisement in The Washington Post that attempted to smear the survivors of the comfort women system, including those who bravely testified before our own House Foreign Affairs Committee. The ad suggested that these women, who were forcibly and repeatedly raped by soldiers, were engaged in ‘‘licensed prostitution that was commonplace around the world at the time.’’ This is a ludicrous and infuriating assertion.
Our resolution calls on the Government of Japan officially to acknowledge and to apologize for the appalling acts that Imperial Japan committed against the so-called ‘‘comfort women.’’ It seeks admission of an appalling truth. Failure to do so would signal to others around the globe that such horrors can be perpetrated again and treated just as cavalierly as they have been in this case.
But most importantly, Mr. Speaker, it speaks out for the victims of this monstrous system who were terrorized and brutalized by men at war. It gives voice to these courageous women whom others have tried to silence through shame, bigotry, and threats of further violence.
It is appropriate that this House stand up for these women who ask only that the truth be honored. The world awaits a full reckoning of history from the Japanese Government.
I strongly support this resolution, and I urge all of my colleagues to do the same.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise also in support of this resolution, which strikes an important balance, protecting the integrity of history and recognizing present-day reality. It also addresses an issue of great significance for the peoples of the Asia Pacific region.
The tragedy of the ‘‘comfort women,’’ the thousands of Asian and European women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during the first half of the 20th century, was a horrific crime. For the surviving ‘‘comfort women’’ these issues are not historical; they are profoundly personal. Some of them were in our Foreign Affairs Committee when this bill was marked up. Attempts to deny or minimize these facts are a disservice to future generations.
The case of Darfur, which we spoke about earlier today, Mr. Speaker, reminds us all that the issue of the use of military force to abuse women, to abuse children through rape and exploitation is one which we need to look at and one which unfortunately continues to this very day.
At the same time, the resolution makes clear that Japan has been a vital ally of the United States and a generous benefactor of the international community through several decades. It has been a strong ally of the United States on issues relating to, for example, nonproliferation.
It was recently reported that three Japanese banks have stopped engaging in any new business with Iran and that Japanese financial institutions are restricting loans and rejecting an Iranian request to pay for oil imports in currency other than dollars.
So we are proud of the U.S.-Japan alliance and grateful for the friendship of the people of Japan. At the same time, we should also recognize that the issue of unresolved historic grievances from the Pacific war is one that cannot be ignored. It is through reconciliation of these issues that our Asian allies can work constructively together, as is the case with our European allies, and the achievement of regional harmony is in America’s vital national security interests.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 5 minutes to my good friend and our distinguished colleague from California (Mr. HONDA), the principal author of this important resolution.
Mr. HONDA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my unconditional and heartfelt support for those euphemistically known to the world as “comfort women.’’
Let me at the outset thank Chairman LANTOS; the vice chair of the subcommittee, ENI FALEOMAVAEGA; and the ranking member, ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN. I really appreciate your support and your strong, clear statements. Today, the House will make history as we consider the passage of H. Res. 121, a resolution I introduced which seeks an official apology for what the ‘‘comfort women’’ endured under Japan’s Imperial Armed Forces during World War II.
On this day, I must recognize my good friend and mentor and former colleague, Representative Lane Evans, whose irreproachable character gave these women hope. The legacy of his spirit has remained with me throughout this incredible journey, during which it has been my personal honor to have carried this torch, and I know that his spirit is with me today too. If he is watching, I would like to thank him for his unparalleled courage and tireless efforts to bring justice and the restoration of dignity to the ‘‘comfort women’’ survivors. Lane, semper fi.
I would also like to recognize Ms. Lee Yong-Soo, a survivor of the comfort stations who is here today with us. Ms. Lee has been a stalwart and passionate advocate for herself and her fellow survivors.
On February 15 of this year, Ms. Lee was joined by Ms. Jan Ruff-O’Herne and Ms. Kim Koon-Ja as witnesses in a hearing before the Asia, the Pacific and Global Environment Subcommittee, chaired by my good friend ENI FALEOMAVAEGA. I would also like to thank him and Chairman TOM LANTOS for their outspoken support for these women.
The survivors’ riveting and gut-wrenching testimony about the horrors they endured as former ‘‘comfort women’’ brought us all to tears and impacted me profoundly. Their courage and indomitable spirit will continue to inspire me every day.
Mr. Speaker, today the House will send a message to the Government of Japan that it should deliver an official, unequivocal, unambiguous apology for the indignity the ‘‘comfort women’’ suffered.
Too many times we’ve seen women victimized by war and conflict. The experience of these women is a vivid reminder that the human rights of women around the world are never fully secure. We know that rape, sexual abuse and sometimes murder of women and girls in war are still committed by armies in various countries. One thinks of Darfur, Bosnia, and East Timor. We must teach future generations that we cannot allow this to happen.
Mr. Speaker, encouraging our good friend and ally, the Government of Japan, to officially and unequivocally apologize is, in my mind, my heart and the minds and hearts of all those concerned about protecting human rights, the right thing to do.
I have always believed that reconciliation is the first step in the healing process, and I am proud to be here today on this truly historic occasion to continue to advocate with every fabric of my being for that principle.
I urge my colleagues to join me in support of protecting and defending the human rights of ‘‘comfort women’’ by voting ‘‘yes’’ on H. Res. 121.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. TOM DAVIS).
Mr. TOM DAVIS of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H. Res. 121. I want to thank Mr. HONDA, the chief sponsor for this legislation, Chairman LANTOS, Ms. ROS- LEHTINEN, Mr. FALEOMAVAEGAand others who have helped bring this to the floor.
This resolution is long overdue. I’m a proud cosponsor of this resolution because it is time for these women to tell their story to the world. It is time for the world to know how horribly humans can treat other humans in times of war and conflict, and it is time for the Government of Japan to own up to the wrongs that it committed toward these women.
During World War II, between 100,000 and 200,000 women were abducted from their homes in Japan and occupied lands, including Korea and China and the Philippines, and forced into the sex trade for the benefit of the Japanese Army. To deny this tragedy is to allow it to happen again. We prevent history from repeating itself only when we actually learn from history, not when we try to deny and obfuscate the truth.
When U.S. Government placed Americans of Japanese descent into internment camps in World War II, we were wrong; and we have since apologized to the families of those victims. This is the measure of responsible leadership.
When we implore our friends across the Pacific to apologize for their many mistakes, we ask for no more than what we as Americans are willing to do ourselves.
Japan has been a strong ally of the United States for years, and I believe both countries have benefited greatly from that relationship. However, it is a true friend that will tell another when it is wrong, and I believe the United States has an obligation as an ally to Japan to stand up against this atrocity and to reveal to the world in appropriate fashion.
It is time for the stories of the ‘‘comfort women’’ to be told. It is because these courageous women are speaking out and refusing to be silenced that the United States and the world can finally learn why this issue is so important and why we must never allow it to be repeated ever again on this planet. I urge support for this resolution.
Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 5 minutes to my good friend, the distinguished chairman of the Subcommittee of Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, ENI FALEOMAVAEGA.
(Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the distinguished chairman of our House Foreign Affairs Committee, my good friend and chairman, TOM LANTOS, and also our senior ranking member, Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN, for their leadership and efforts in bringing H. Res. 121 to the floor today. I also want to thank our colleagues, and the gentleman from California especially as the chief sponsor of this legislation, which has the support of some146 Members, both Republicans and Democrats, fully supporting the provisions of this resolution.
I also want to note, this resolution was previously passed by the International Relations Committee in the last Congress, under the able leadership of our previous chairman, the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. HYDE.
And I would be remiss if I did not also mention the name of another gentleman from Illinois, my good friend Mr. Lane Evans, who was also a champion of this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, H. Res. 121 seeks to express the sense of the U.S. 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 Forces coercion of teenage girls and young women into a sexual slavery, euphemistically known as ‘‘comfort women,’’ system during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific islands from the late 1930s throughout the duration of World War II.
On February 7 of this year, the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment held a hearing on H. Res. 121, the first time ever in the history of the United States Congress that three surviving ‘‘comfort women’’ testified for the record.
Ms. Lee Yong-Soo is with us today, and I want to especially commend her and Ms. Koon Kim Lee and Ms. Jan Ruff O’Herne for their courage and their faith and their belief that one day their story would be told and, in part, their suffering would be set right. I encourage the world to read their moving testimony, which has brought us to this moment when the United States of America will stand arm in arm with these noble women in demanding an official apology from the Government of Japan.
The comfort women system organized, managed and administered by the Imperial Army of Japan is considered one of the 20th century’s most extensive cases of human trafficking and ignored violations of human rights. It was unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude as teenage girls and young women were raped, systematically beaten, tortured, drugged, mutilated and sometimes even murdered.
According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army abducted and forced some 200,000 young teenage girls and young women from Korea, from China, from the Philippines, from Indonesia, from the Dutch Indies, and other women, forced them into sexual enslavement and abuse.
Today the Government of Japan contends that it has apologized and accepted responsibility for its atrocities. But it wasn’t until 1980s and the 1990s that major publications in Japan began to describe the details of the comfort women, and it also wasn’t until 1992 in response to these developments that Japan’s Chief Secretary, cabinet secretary, Yahei Kono, issued an official statement. After a 2-year period, the foreign ministry of Japan conducted this research, and it did make the admission.
I would include for the RECORD the full statement of Chief Secretary Kono regarding the 2-year study by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1993, after a two-year study by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the supervision of the Chief Secretary of Cabinet, an equivalent to the Chief-of- Staff of the White House, Mr. Yahei Kon stated:
The Government of Japan has been conducting a study on the issue of wartime ‘‘comfort women’’ since December 1991. I wish to announce the findings as a result of that study.
As a result of the study which indicates that comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women. Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere.
As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, etc., were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion, etc.
Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.
It is incumbent upon us, the Government of Japan, to continue to consider seriously, while listening to the views of learned circles, how best we can express this sentiment. We shall face squarely the historical facts as described above instead of evading them, and take them to heart as lessons of history. We hereby reiterated our firm determination never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history. As actions have been brought to court in Japan and interests have been shown in this issue outside Japan, the Government of Japan shall continue to pay full attention to this matter, including private researched related thereto.
The Kono statement is often cited as Japan’s official apology, although it was never endorsed officially by any of Japan’s prime ministers and members of cabinets. At the time the chief cabinet secretary was considered part press secretary, part chief of staff but never an official member of cabinet, nor can he ever present himself as an acting prime minister.
2001, Prime Minister Koizumi issued a statement. However, only statements approved by the cabinet and not the prime minister, are a definitive expression of government policy in Japan. Without the approval of the cabinet, all declarations of contrition are considered only personal views.
I want to close my statement and to say this: Someone once said, ‘‘The greatness of a nation is not necessarily measured by its accomplishments, by its ability, but by its ability to face honestly its mistakes of the past and then take appropriate action to correct them.’’
I sincerely hope that this will be taken seriously by our good friends and the leadership of the Government of Japan.
I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Chairman TOM LANTOS of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and our Senior Ranking Member, Ms. ROS- LEHTINEN, for their leadership and efforts in bringing H. Res. 121 to the floor today. I also want to thank our colleague, the gentleman from California, Mr. HONDA, for his sponsorship of this bill which has the bipartisan support of some 146 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
I also want to make note that this resolution was previously passed by the International Relations Committee in the last Congress under the able leadership of our previous Chairman, the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Henry Hyde. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the name of our former colleague and friend, Mr. Lane Evans also from Illinois, who championed this bill for years.
Mr. Speaker, H. Res. 121 seeks to express the sense of the U.S. 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 teenage girls and young women into sexual slavery, euphemistically known as the ‘‘comfort women’’ system, during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from 1930s and through the duration of World War II.
On February 15, 2007, the Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Global Environment held a hearing on H. Res. 121, and, for the first time ever in the history of the U.S. Congress, three surviving comfort women testified for the record.
Ms. Young Soo Lee is with us today and I want to especially commend her and Ms. Koon Kim and Ms. Jan Ruff O’Herne for their courage and their faith and their belief that one day their story would be told and, in part, their suffering would be set right. I encourage the world to read their moving testimony which has brought us to this moment when the United States of America will stand arm in arm with these noble women in demanding an official apology from the Government of Japan.
The ‘‘comfort women’’ system, organized, managed and administered by the Imperial Army of Japan, is considered to be one of the 20th century’s most extensive cases of human trafficking and ignored violations of human rights. It was unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude as teen-age girls and young women were systematically raped, beaten, tortured, drugged, mutilated, and sometimes murdered. According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army, abducted and forced some 200,000 young teenage girls and young women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesian, Dutch, and other women—forced them into sexual enslavement and abuse.
Today, the Government of Japan contends that it has apologized and accepted responsibility for its atrocities. But it wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s that major publications in Japan began to describe the details of the ‘‘comfort women’’ system and that countries occupied by Japan also began to speak out about it. I wasn’t until 1992, in response to these developments, that Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued a statement.
This ‘‘Kono Statement’’ is often cited as Japan’s official apology although it was never endorsed officially by any of Japan’s prime ministers and their cabinets. At the time, the Chief Cabinet Secretary was considered part Press Secretary, part Chief of Staff, and never an official member of Cabinet, nor can he ever present himself as an Acting Prime Minister.
In 2001, Prime Minister Koizumi issued a statement. However, only statements approved by the Cabinet, not the Prime Minister, are a definitive expression of government policy in Japan. Without the approval of the Cabinet, all declarations of contrition are considered only personal views.
Interestingly, as this topic has gained widespread attention as result of February’s hearing, both the Japanese government and press have ignored the fact that Members of Congress now understand both Japan’s legislative system and history of the Comfort Women tragedy. We are not ignorant, as some reporters have suggested. We know what does and does not constitute an official apology. We are also aware of the propaganda being churned out by the Japanese press intent on revising history by denying the validity of the ‘‘Comfort Women’’ controversy.
This year, Prime Minister Abe denied the existence of sexual slave camps. Then he retracted his statement because of pressure from leaders of the Asia-Pacific region. Now he says that he ‘‘respects’’ the finding of the Kono Report of 1993. What does this mean? I have a special love and affinity for the people of Japan. But more sacred to me is our obligation to emphasize the fact a systematic abduction and raping and abuse of women as a weapon of war is totally unacceptable, and I believe the people of Japan agree. In fact, it can be argued that H. Res. 121 reflects the will of the Japanese people. In the only survey that the Japanese press appears to have published on the Comfort Women issue, in 2001, Fuji TV’s Hodo asked respondents if they thought Japan has apologized sufficiently. 43.8 percent answered no, 37.2 percent answered yes.
Some may say the past is the past and that the U.S. is also an offender and violator of human rights. Maybe this is so. But nowhere in recorded history has the U.S. military command as a matter of policy issued a directives allowing for the coercion of teenage girls and young women into sexual slavery or forced prostitution. On the other hand, this is exactly what the Japanese military high command did and it is an affront to truth for any government to downplay its history.
Civilized society cannot allow history to be revised or denied under any circumstances. Regardless of what bearing this, or any other issue, may have on bilateral relations, or U.S. foreign policy, civilized society has a moral obligation to remember, to give voice to those who have suffered, to pay living tribute to victims past and present, to defend human rights.
Otherwise we run the risk of holocaust. Today, I want to commend my colleagues for their support and to call upon the Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet to issue a formal apology. No amount of money, not even payments set up by private Japanese contributions or the Asian Women’s Fund, can atone for the suffering of the thousands of women victimized at the hands of Japan’s Imperial Forces before and during, World War II.
While I support any woman’s right to lay claim to these funds, I do not believe the Japanese government should suggest that a monetary payment can make right a moral wrong.
So, for me, any and all discussions about the Asian Women’s Fund sufficing as an act of apology falls short of what is relevant. What is relevant is that Japan acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility for its Imperial Armed Force’s coercion of teenage girls and young women into sexual slavery during its occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands during WWII.
Mr. Speaker, I want to conclude by sharing with my colleagues this statement—someone once said that, “The greatness of a nation is not necessarily measured by its accomplishments, but by its ability to face honestly its mistakes of the past, and then take appropriate action to correct them.’’
Again, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from New Mexico (Mr. PEARCE).
Mr. PEARCE. I thank the gentlelady from Florida for yielding time and also thank Mr. LANTOS.
Mr. Speaker, we have to ask ourselves exactly why would we be interested in this particular thing today. Some might claim that it’s an old circumstance, that it existed too far in the past. Others might say that it simply is not our right, not our position, to enter into the discussion.
As far as it being too far in the past, many times I go into the district of New Mexico, the Second District of New Mexico, and I bump into people from the Vietnam era, people my age. I was there in the 1970s, I flew in Vietnam. Many, many have hearts broken by the way a Nation treated them, and just a word of encouragement, just a word of saying welcome home, brother, brings tears that flow down men and women’s cheeks from long ago past.
We have a responsibility to impact those circumstances which were not right, which were not just, and no better person than Mr. LANTOS to be talking about this today, because he understands that. He’s a steady, quiet voice for reason. Regarding Ms. LEE, who is with us today, I would remember the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who said that the simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the entire world.
He went on in that same talk to say that one person of truth impacts the whole world. So I think that we are called to quietly visit with our friends, the Japanese, and I think they are very good friends. I think that we, as good friends, should quietly say, Friend, it’s time to acknowledge; it’s time to apologize; it’s time to speak. Because the healing just doesn’t occur on the recipient’s part, on those persons who were wronged; the healing begins in the heart of those who have perpetrated the actions.
Admission brings a certain humbleness that each one of us begins to recognize that we are not above righteousness, we are not above rightness, that we are not above justice, truth. No single one of us is. So if we find ourselves at this curious point saying to a long-time trusted friend, It’s time to acknowledge; it’s time to apologize; it’s time to recognize what we have done and to change, it’s not a very harsh statement. It’s not one taken in anger, but it is one taken with the noblest of objectives, and that is the recognition and the healing of a long-overdue act.
Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished colleague from California (Ms. WOOLSEY), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of House Resolution 121, and I thank my colleague, MIKE HONDA, for his leadership on this issue. I particularly thank Representative Lane Evans, who was with us up until this year, and I hope he is watching today, because he was right when he first introduced this legislation, and his reasons and his legislation remains correct and right today.
Many may claim that the exploitation of the comfort women should be left in the past. That could not be further from the truth. Anyone who has met these brave women knows that they live with the haunting memories in the present every single day. The sexual exploitation, some would say enslavement, must be marked, and it must be remembered. The acts of violence the comfort women faced were inhuman, and it cannot be erased.
This should not be a day of sadness.
Today is about accountability and hope for the future. We will remember that those who did not live to see this day and, yet, are still celebrated for their courage. In their honor, we will speak for all of the world here: Never again. The lesson will be learned. Women are not prizes of war. This has been a long time coming, but there is no statute of limitations on courage and on dignity, and that is what we honor today. We honor the perseverance of comfort women. We call on governments worldwide to accept responsibility for past deeds and work towards a just future.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of our time.
Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to my good friend from Texas (Ms. JACKSON-LEE), a distinguished member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
(Ms. JACKSON-LEE asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank the ranking member of this committee for creating the forum to recognize atrocities that many have tried to forget.
Let me thank Mr. HONDA, the moving force of this legislation and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, for his leadership, and I am so glad we have all mentioned Lane Evans because of the spirit and the enthusiasm and the determination in which he authored this legislation earlier before he left Congress.
Let me also speak to Ms. LEE, who remains as a steadfast anchor for all the women who cannot speak for themselves.
Mr. Speaker, I want to take a different approach. I hope that people do not take lightly what acknowledgment, apologies and accepting historical responsibility means. This is about sexual slavery.
I ask my colleagues to just think that if we were addressing the question today, which we have done in our Foreign Affairs Committee on sexual slavery, the holding of women, the debasing of women, the degrading of women, would most of us be rushing to the floor of the House to be able to condemn those actions that might be around us and around the world?
This is no less degrading, and its historical perspective does not diminish the responsibility of Japan and of this Congress to be able to say to these comfort women, women who were sexual slaves, that we apologize or ask Japan to apologize and hold the nation historically accountable for those actions.
Do you know that today textbooks in Japan, many of them diminish the actions of Japan and the activities that held the comfort women? These were women engaged in sexual activities allegedly to give comfort to the military. So I would simply say, having gone through a number of debates about apologies regarding slavery in America, that apologies do count. It means something for those who have suffered in a way that they can never, never find an expression for.
So I rise today to support H. Res. 121 and place it in a historical context but in the context of today. We know that if any of those issues arise before us, we would stand here in condemnation.
The comfort women’s plight is no less deserving of our Nation, and, of course, a recognition by Japan that an apology, accountability, will go a long way in soothing the deeply embedded pain for those who no longer live but for those who live and suffer.
I ask my colleagues to support H. Res. 121.
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H. Res. 121, which calls on the Government of Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility for its role in the coercion of young women and girls, euphemistically known to the world as ‘comfort women’, to serve as sex slaves in Japanese military comfort stations from the 1930s through World War II.
I would especially like to thank Mr. HONDA for his leadership on the issue of ‘comfort women’ and for his expression of solidarity with these exploited women and urge each and every one of my colleagues to support this resolution.
Mr. Speaker, as you well know, the friendship and alliance that exists between the United States and Japan establishes stability and prosperity in Asia and the Pacific and is essential to our security interests in that region. This resolution calls on the Government of Japan to strengthen that tie by acknowledging the facts forever enshrined in history and by publicly denouncing these past heinous human rights abuses in one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century.
Only in recent years have these victims of Imperial Japanese brutality relayed their stories to the world. In fact, just this year, on February 15, 2007, three women who knew firsthand the unequivocal pain, suffering and horror of sexual servitude at the hands of the Japanese military testified at a subcommittee hearing chaired by Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. These women relayed heartbreaking real life accounts of years of torment, disease, and separation from their families. These women are still plagued today by the physical and emotional scars of the horrendous human rights abuses committed against them.
On April 26 of this year, my good friend and the former chairman of the Foreign Affairs
Committee, Henry Hyde and I co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Times urging ‘the Japanese people to courageously acknowledge and redress the wrongs perpetuated by Imperial Japan’ on these women and ‘to come to grips’ with the history of their past. In light of Japan’s recent wavering on the accuracy of historical fact regarding comfort women, I stand with my colleagues in urging the Japanese Government to very clearly acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear, unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr Speaker, I rise today in support of H. Res. 121, which calls on the Government of Japan to accept formal historical responsibility for one of the darkest chapters of World War II history in Asia and the Pacific, the Japanese military’s use of ‘‘comfort women’’, the practice of coercion of young women into sexual slavery.
I would first like to acknowledge our distinguished colleague, Mr. HONDA of California, for introducing this important resolution and for his persistent efforts in giving voice to the victims of these crimes against humanity. Japan, a loyal ally and one of U.S.’ closest partners, plays a critical role in maintaining the geopolitical balance in a still volatile region.
The Japanese government’s refusal to acknowledge the despicable wartime practice of its Imperial Army known as ‘‘comfort women’’ stands in stark contrasts to the courageous humanitarian stand the Japanese government has taken in a number of humanitarian crises around the world and to its role as guarantor for peace in the region.
Facing up to one of the darkest chapters of its history is a genuine test for the maturity of a nation. In the aftermath of World War II, the German nation and its government found the courage to account for war crimes that the Third Reich committed during the war and occupation.
There can be no denying that the Japanese military committed those crimes involving thousands of women, mostly of Chinese and Koreans descent. It is particularly disturbing that some in Japan are still trying to distort the historical record and are denying that these crimes took place. The same parties are going even a step further and blaming the victims for engaging into prostitution.
It is up to this House to call for the Japanese government to set the record straight, not just for the sake of the past, but also because rape has been used across the globe today as a weapon of war. By supporting this resolution we send a strong and unambiguous signal to the Japanese Government to acknowledge its historical responsibility. We will also state Congress’ strong l condemnation of rape as weapon of war.
While support of the resolution will finally give voice of the numerous victims of these despicable crimes, the Congress’ intent is to assure our ally Japan that the resolution aims at forging the process of healing by facing certain historical experience and is not intended as retribution against a partner and ally.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me In supporting this important resolution.
Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H. Res. 121, the Comfort Women Resolution—a resolution that I have supported since its initial introduction in the 109th Congress. Beginning in the 1930s, the Imperial Government of Japan orchestrated the enslavement of up to 200,000 young Korean women. Many were abducted from their homes and sent to Japanese military brothels. Others were lured from their homes under the false pretense of employment. In what was one of the worst cases of human trafficking of the 20th century, the trauma that these women suffered drove many to conceal their past, either too embarrassed or scared to speak of it.
The surviving victims deserve the recognition that they so desire.
To this day, Japan maintains that this issue is closed and the sufferings of individuals inflicted in the war have already been dealt by treaties normalizing its ties with other Asian countries. Some have pointed to Prime Minister Abe’s April 27th statement as a formal apology, yet both the Prime Minister himself and Japan’s Foreign Ministry went on record to disavow any alleged apology. It is important that the Japanese government confronts this dark part of Japanese history.
This resolution is as much about today as it is about yesterday. The world’s strength to oppose killing today is made greater by accountability, for actions present, but also past. It’s weakened by denial of accountability and obfuscation of past acts. History is a continuum that affects today and tomorrow. It’s much harder to get tomorrow right if we get yesterday wrong.
I urge my colleagues to support this important resolution.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the House today is considering H. Res. 121 which rightly recognizes the plight of Korean comfort women during the 1930s and World War II. I was proud to co-sponsor this resolution which calls on the nation of Japan to formally recognize and apologize for these crimes.
After the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s, the army forced young women to work in brothels. In some cases kidnapped women were transported overseas for sexual servitude. At the end of World War II, these women were left scarred and in many cases far from home with no resources.
Sadly, there are some in Japan who still insist that the army was not formally involved with these crimes or that the women chose to become involved in prostitution. The evidence clearly demonstrates that this was not the case. It is far past time for the Japanese government to recognize the role the army played in these crimes.
Today, we call on them to apologize to the few women who continue to live with the shame of the crimes committed against them. While the relationship between Korea and
Japan has improved as both countries turned into thriving democracies, the issue of the comfort women continues to come between them. I hope that this resolution will promote reconciliation so that both countries can move together into a future of cooperation and friendship.
Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, we have no additional requests for time and yield back the balance of our time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. HINOJOSA). The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from California (Mr. LANTOS) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, H. Res. 121, as amended.
The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the resolution, as amended, was agreed to.
The title was amended so as to read: ‘‘A 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 Forces’ 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.’’
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.