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Women 2000, Japan NGO Alternative Report
by Japan NGO Report Preparatory Committee, 1999.08.13
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      The government of Japan's response to the issue of women and armed conflict only mentions cooperation with international bodies providing humanitarian aid such as UNHCR or UNICEF and increasing women's participation in United Nations-led peacekeeping missions. Such moves cannot be considered as promoting women's contributions to peace. We strongly urge the government to carry out the actions mentioned in the platform for action, recognize the primary roles played so far by women in peace movements, make active efforts toward a comprehensive and total arms reductions under a strict and effective international control regime, cut back on excess defense spending and contain the possibilities for weapons procurement.

      In 1997 an international conference on Violence against "Women in War and Armed Conflict Situations" was held in Tokyo, gathering women working on this theme from all over the world. Participants reported facts about violence against women in war and armed conflict situations that are happening throughout the globe and discussed how to overcome the problems. An international network called VAWW-NET (Violence against Women in War-Network) was created. Its members have played important roles in pushing for gender justice in the creation of international military tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia as well as the International Criminal Court.

1. Military Violence Against Women-Seeking Human Security for Women and Children

  1. Breaking the Silence: The rape by three U.S. Military personnel
  2. Over 50 Years of Chronic Military Violence
  3. Reconsidering Military Bases and Forces from a Gender perspective
  4. Diplomacy and government without Military Force

2. The "comfort women" issue of the Japanese military

  1. The "comfort women" issue surfacing in the 1990s
  2. Japanese government acknowledging only "moral" responsibility
  3. The "Asian Women's Fund" is no answer to Japan's legal responsibilities
  4. Victims' rejection of the Asian Women's Fund, and divisions caused by the fund's moves
  5. Efforts for legislative steps for fact-finding and compensation
  6. Women's international war tribunal to penalize those responsible

3. Japan going down the path toward a country "capable of waging war"

4. Total elimination of nuclear weapons

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1. Military Violence Against Women-Seeking Human Security for Women and Children

(1) Breaking the Silence: The rape by three U.S. Military personnel

      A 12-year-old Okinawan girl was raped by three U.S. military personnel on September 4, 1995, during the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing. The courage of the 12-year-old girl who raised her voice to ensure that such an outrage should never again occur moved Okinawan women who participated in the conference to carry out a series of rallies and demonstrations. The girl's courage also resulted in the long-needed establishment of the Rape Emergency Intervention Counseling Center-Okinawa (REICO) in order to provide aid and support to victims.

(2)  Over 50 Years of Chronic Military Violence

      Under the terms of the U.S.- Japan Security Treaty (of the 47,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan) 27,000 active duty military personnel, (a total of 53,000 including family members and other related persons) are stationed in Okinawa, which comprises 0.6% of the land area of Japan. The three month battle of Okinawa in 1945 took the lives of one-fourth of Okinawa's population and destroyed the foundation of its society. Military violence against women began during the Battle and increased after it ended. Countless numbers of women were raped, including a 9-month-old baby girl, a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old girl. Women were gang-raped by as many as 20 to 30 soldiers, and some, who seeking help, became casualties. Many children were born out of violence in these lawless times. Okinawan citizen's land was seized by force to build mammoth military bases which were key facilities for the U.S. military fighting the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars and other conflicts. The buildup of military drills has forced contamination and crime. Although Okinawan legal rights were restored when it was returned to Japan in 1972, Okinawa continues to be an island of military bases, even after the end of the Cold War.

(3)  Reconsidering Military Bases and Forces from a Gender perspective

      Without seeking in any way to minimize the personal tragedy of each woman or girl victimized by violence, in order to grasp the system of military violence, we have compiled a Chronology of Postwar Crimes of Military Violence against Women. We know this reveals only the tip of the iceberg, even though we have continued to add newly uncovered incidents to the original list. We also realize that compiling this chronology does not alleviate the wounds and suffering of women unable to raise their voices. The U.S.- Japan Security Treaty and the Status of Forces Agreement may serve to promote the national interest and be vital to security interests in East Asia, but the military base/military force presence not only in Okinawa but also on the mainland has resulted in creating over 50 years of large-scale violence. Twice, we have carried our appeal directly to the American people, those citizens of the nation that sends military personnel to Okinawa, to inform them of our situation.

      The two Okinawa Women's America Peace Caravans have created strong ties with the Okinawa Peace Networks that have formed in San Francisco and Los Angeles. We have become aware that the U.S. defense budget sacrifices critical welfare, education, medical and housing services for persons in need, and that the program to recruit former military personnel as public school teachers serves to increase public acceptance of military thinking and violence. We were not surprised to learn of the higher rate of domestic violence in military families than in the rest of U.S. society. U.S. military sexual violence also poses a serious problem not only for Okinawan women, but also for women in Korea. The long term U.S. military presence in the Philippines has resulted in many Filipina's bearing children by U.S. military men and suffering human rights abuses. The common feature in each of these countries is that the national policy condoning the long term foreign military presence has resulted in gross violations of basic human rights and dignity.

(4)  Diplomacy and government without Military Force

      Okinawan citizens have raised their voices loudly during the past three years. In response, the U.S. and Japanese governments have issued the final report of the Special Action Committee on Area. Parts or all of some U.S. military facilities (to a total of 20% of the military occupied land) will be returned and some live-ammunition drill locations will be moved. But the report announces no downsizing of military forces. Furthermore, in almost every case, the facility will not be closed, but merely moved to another location, which actually represents a modernization and buildup of current U.S. military facilities in Okinawa.

      Moreover, the Revised Japan-U.S. Cooperation Guidelines approved by the U.S. and Japanese governments signify the Japanese government's total cooperation in U.S. military activities, including the use of not only military facilities, but also airports, ports, highways, communication facilities and hospitals throughout Japan, as needed. Passage of this law sets a dangerous precedent in granting priority to military affairs in diplomacy, and to military control. This buildup also represents a further violation of citizen's security.

      Okinawa has suffered a half century of coexistence with the U.S. military, enduring noise pollution, training accidents, environmental contamination and violence which has infringed on the security of citizens, especially women and children. It is only natural that citizens should raise their voices to call for military base consolidation and downsizing. As women , we especially seek the withdrawal of U.S. Marine personnel. We are not calling merely for their removal to another location. Rather, we believe this must constitute a part of the conversion from a society filled with military force and violence to a society founded on mutual trust and life in community.

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2. The "comfort women" issue of the Japanese military

(1)  The "comfort women" issue surfacing in the 1990s

      During Japan's 1931-45 war in the Asia-Pacific, the Imperial Japanese military mobilized a huge number of young women - up to 200,000 by some estimates - mainly from Asia to the battlefield frontlines, and confined them and repeatedly raped them under threats and violence. Many of the victims never returned to their homeland alive. Today, the practice is internationally described as "sexual slavery", and is considered as the worst example of wartime sexual violence and war violence against women this century by state. In the early 1990s, Ms. Yun Chung Ok of South Korea disclosed the results of her research into this topic in a series of newspaper articles which prompted women's groups in South Korea to tackle the "comfort women" issue, demanding the Japanese government dig up the truth, extend apologies and compensation to the victims, and punish those responsible.

      However, a Japanese government official, when the issue was taken up during a Diet session in June 1990, flatly denied the government's involvement by claiming that "comfort women" had merely been brought by private-sector brokers. Upon hearing this, South Korea's Ms. Kim Hak Sun courageously came forward in August 1991 to say that she had once been a "comfort woman" . The testimony by this surviving victim paved the way for this issue to be taken up internationally.

      Kim was followed by one woman victim after another from not only South Korea, but also from the Philippines, Taiwan, China, North Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the Pacific islands and other regions to come forward to tell of their wartime experiences. Support groups were formed in their respective countries and efforts were launched to examine facts about the victims' sufferings and to provide them medical and other forms of assistance.

(2)  Japanese government acknowledging only "moral" responsibility

      In January 1992 documents proving the Japanese military's is involvement were found in the Defense Agency's archives. Subsequently, the Japanese government apologized to South Korea and other parties concerned. In 1993, the government disclosed the findings from its probe into the "comfort women" issue, and released a statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yohei Kono, acknowledging Japan's moral responsibility. Still, Japan insists that it bears no legal responsibility, on the grounds that war compensation matters have been settled through the San Francisco Peace Treaty and other government-to-government agreements.

      Since 1991, women victims from South Korea, the Philippines, China, Taiwan and the Netherlands as we11 as a Korean resident in Japan filed a total of eight lawsuits with courts in Japan, demanding that the Japanese government extend a formal apology and compensation to individual victims. In April 1998, the Shimonoseki branch of the Yamaguchi District Court did not provide judgment on the "comfort women" system itself, but accused the Japanese government of failing to take any legislative measures after it recognized its "moral" responsibility. The court ordered the state to give each victim 300,000 yen in redress, thus partially confirming Japan's legal obligations albeit in an insufficient way. However, the Tokyo District Court, in its October 1998 ruling on the suit by a group of former "comfort women" from the Philippines, refused even to confirm that the plaintiffs' suffering had taken place, and flatly turned down their demands. The Tokyo court said that the government was immune from such responsibility under the prewar legal system and that international laws do not allow individuals to seek damages from state authorities.

      Furthermore, a group of rightwing revisionists, touting what they call "liberal views of history," launched a nationwide campaign calling for the elimination of "comfort women" references from school textbooks. They claim that there is no evidence to prove that "comfort women" were forcibly taken to the frontlines, that "comfort women" were merely prostitutes who wanted money, and that the "comfort women" system was no different from the commercial prostitution that was socially recognized in Japan at that time.

(3)  The "Asian Women's Fund" is no answer to Japan's legal responsibilities

      Since the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, the issue of sexual enslavement by the Japanese military has been taken up by the United Nations. The Platform for Action of the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 also clearly stated that sexual slavery constitutes a war crime against women, calling for fact-finding efforts, punishment of the people responsible and compensation for victims.

      In 1996, United Nations special rapporteur Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, in her report to the UN Human Rights Commission on violence against women, made a six-point recommendation to the Japanese government, including the need for state compensation. In 1998, the UN commission's Subcommission on Protection of Minorities and Prevention of Discrimination adopted (in the form of "welcoming") a report by Ms. Gay McDougall, special rapporteur on rape and sexual slavery, which noted that the cycle of impunity toward wartime sexual violence should be terminated and called not only for compensation but also for criminal indictment and punishment of those responsible. Both reports say that the Asian Women's Fund, initiated by the Japanese government in 1995, does not fulfill Japan's legal obligations concerning the problem.

(4) Victims' rejection of the Asian Women's Fund, and divisions caused by the fund's moves

      Many of the victims refused to accept the money offered by the Asian Women's Fund because the Fund does not offer either a real apology or state compensation but is merely a scheme to help the government avoid its own legal obligations.

      Japanese women's groups have also launched a campaign against the fund concluding that it will only allow those truly responsible for the victims' sufferings to walk free. Such campaigns have prompted the governments of the victims' countries to take action, with Taiwanese and South Korean governments distributing the same amount of support money to the victims as offered by the Asian Women's Fund. However, the financially-strapped government of the Philippines could not take such steps. Many of the Philippina victims are in poor living conditions, and an increasing number of them are accepting the money from the Asian Women's Fund, often at the strong urging of fund officials. It is believed that the fund is secretly distributing the money to some victims in South Korea.

      Unfortunately, divisions have been created among victims, their local support groups and supporters in Japan over the responses to the Asian Women's Fund's offer. In addition, a section within the Asian Women's Fund in charge of distributing governmental subsidies to women's human rights activities has approached domestic and overseas women's NGOs with the offer of such subsidies, creating a division between groups that accept the money and those rejecting the offer.

(5) Efforts for legislative steps for fact-finding and compensation

      Most of the government-owned documents and materials concerning the "comfort women" issue, including those returned from the former Allied Powers, remain undisclosed except for just a mere portion that were unveiled to the public during this past decade. Meanwhile, efforts have been launched to seek legislation to create a Diet panel or to revise the Diet library law to elicit facts about war-related damages.

      Also, experts point to the need for a legislative solution to the compensation issue, with neither an administrative solution by the government nor judicial settlement by the courts unlikely. Legal experts have proposed the creation of a comprehensive law on compensation for war-related damages in general. The 1998 Shimonoseki court ruling specifically ordered a legislative solution to the "comfort women" issue, prompting a campaign mainly by lawyers for that goal. However, the outlook for the enactment of such legislative steps is dim in light of the current political landscape in Japan where conservative forces are expanding their dominance.

(6)  Women's international war tribunal to penalize those responsible

      Since the so-called Tokyo War Tribunal, the issue of prosecuting war crimes has long been a taboo in Japan. No verdict was handed down on the "comfort women" issue at the Tokyo War Tribunal. Now, women groups are preparing to hold an international war crime tribunal in December 2000, believing that punishment of the people responsible, not just financial compensation, is essential to restore justice and the victims' honor. Women from Japan, nations that suffered from Japan's war crimes and others working to prevent wartime sexual violence are trying to join hands to find facts about the "comfort women" system and expose the criminal responsibilities of former Japanese government and military leaders. The tribunal aims to determine and create permanent historical records showing that the "comfort women" system of the Japanese military was a war crime against women and urge the Japanese government to acknowledge its legal responsibility and thereby contribute to preventing similar wartime sexual violence from happening again in the 21st century. We strongly urge the Japanese government to actively cooperate in the establishment of the International Criminal Court and fully implement the recommendations contained in the McDougall report.

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3. Japan going down the path toward a country "capable of waging war"

      In May 1999, the Diet enacted a set of laws to implement the updated Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines - a move totally inconsistent with efforts toward peace. The laws al1ow Japan to go far beyond the framework of its security alliance with the United States, paving the way for logistical support to the U.S. forces, including the supply of weapons, in cases of emergencies in areas surrounding Japan. The legislation requires cooperation not only by the Self-Defense Forces but local authorities as well as the private sector, and could result in involving a wide range of people in warfare. It brings tension to China, the Korean Peninsula and other parts of Asia.

      Another bill to officially recognize the Hinomaru and "Kimigayo" as the national flag and anthem respectively is being debated at the Diet. The Hinomaru was always at the forefront when Japan invaded Asia, and the "Kimigayo" is a song to applaud the Emperor, who was the supreme commander in the war of aggression.

      In addition, a set of bills against organized crimes that legalizes wiretapping, a legislation for resident numbering, and a bill to create a Diet panel to review the Constitution including its war-renouncing Article 9 all moves designed to suppress people's individual freedom and pave the way for a militaristic Japan and tightly-controlled society - are being discussed. We cannot believe that a government that pushes for such policies intends to promote peace.

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4. Total elimination of nuclear weapons

      We, as women from the only country that suffered nuclear bombing, demand that the government launch an effort to conclude the nuclear weapons elimination treaty or a nuclear-free zone treaty that allows no loopholes, now that it has been made clear that the current nuclear nonproliferation treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are powerless to realize the total destruction of nuclear weapons. As a victim of atomic bombing Japan should pull itself out of its dependence on the nuclear umbrella, and instead take actions toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

      Lastly, we believe that Japan should take on a new role in the international community, that of preventing armed conflict through dip1omacy, rather than by force.

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NGO Report Preparation Committee TOC(ja) Souron  A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L  IkenTeishutu
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