Jugun Ianfu (2007)

(a vignette from “Dance Macabre III”)

The Japanese euphemism “jugun ianfu” (military comfort women), refers to women of various ethnic and national backgrounds and social circumstances who became sexual slaves for the Japanese troops before and during the Pacific War.

Some were minors sold into this slavery. Others were deceptively recruited by middlemen, told that they were being hired as factory workers and kept captive. Still more were forcibly abducted, from both Japan and the countries that Japan invaded and conquered as part of their wartime efforts, and shipped to the “comfort stations”.

The Japanese government’s rationale for needing sexual slaves for its troops can be traced back to 1932. It begins with documentation of Japanese Lieutenant-General Okamura Yasuji’s proposal for a “shipment” of Comfort Women to be sent to Shanghai, China as a solution for 223 reported rapes by his troops. However, the proliferation of state-mandated sexual slavery began with the Nanjin Massacre in 1937. After the merciless slaughter of thousands of Chinese, and the pillaging and arson that followed, they set upon raping an insurmountable number of women. As a result of the Nanjin Massacre, “comfort houses” were set up at a fast rate in order to ‘settle down’ disorderly Japanese troops.

The Japanese Army used comfort stations extensively until the war ended in the Pacific in 1945. Most Comfort Women died without being returned to their homelands. They were simply discarded when they got too sick to be of any use. Overwhelming despair drove the imprisoned women to suicide and suicide attempts with alarming frequency. During the last months of WWII, most Comfort Women were murdered or left to die by retreating Japanese troops. Even the survivors were “ruined” women, as no man would willingly take a former Comfort Woman as his bride. The Japanese government denied that women had been forced to work at comfort stations and maintained that it was never involved in operating comfort stations until, in 1992, Professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki of Chuo University found wartime documents in the Library of the National Institute for Defense Studies that confirmed that the Japanese Forces had operated comfort stations. On the same day that excerpts from the documents were published in Japanese newspapers, the government finally admitted its involvement, although it has never issued an apology or compensation to the women.