Statement From M. Evelina Galang,
Filipino American Coordinator, 121 Coalition
The passage of House Resolution 121 is an invitation to transcend past crimes against humanity, and a boon to the efforts of surviving “Comfort Women” who have been seeking justice for over 15 years. It is an opportunity for healing and reconciliation as well as a statement that defines what is and is not acceptable even during times of war. It is my hope that Japan accepts the invitation to bear witness to the women’s experiences and to honor and respect them by delivering a formal and unequivocal apology to all surviving “Comfort Women” of WW2.
Through the efforts of the Asian Women Human Rights Council and Gabriela, Rosa Maria Henson was among the first Filipina “Comfort Women” to step forward on September 18, 1992 and ask the Japanese government to accept full responsibility for the WWII systematic rape and abduction of over 200,000 women and girls throughout Asia.
Following Lola Henson's lead, 173 of the estimated 1000 Filipinas subjected to the Japanese Imperial Army’s “Comfort Stations” also came forward and began to reclaim their dignity through organized campaigns designed by feminist grassroots organizations such as Liga ng mga Lolang Pilipina-Gabriela (LILA Pilipina), Malaya Lolas and Lolas Kampanyera.
Of the 173 Filipinas who have come forward, approximately 84 have died. Today, only a handful of women in their 80’s and 90’s are actively involved.
The passage of House Resolution 121 demonstrates that the United States Congress and their constituents have heard these women. It is a great sign of respect and support. Let Japan follow the example of the United States House of Representatives as they pass House Resolution 121. Let them look to the women, see their faces and hear their stories. Let them acknowledge the past and take responsibility.
Novelist and University of Miami Professor M. Evelina Galang served as Florida Coordinator and Filipino American Outreach Coordinator for 121 Coalition