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【#331】Japan Should Officially Deny Forcible Recruitment of Comfort Women

Mio Sugita / 2015.10.14 (Wed)

October 13, 2015

     I visited Geneva in Switzerland to attend a pre-sessional working group of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at the United Nations European Headquarters July 27. Along with Yumiko Yamamoto, leader of nongovernment organization "Japanese Women for Justice and Peace," I had an opportunity to present opinions as representative of a Japanese conservative group for the first time there.
     We each were given only 2 minutes for the presentation. So, we coordinated in advance our speeches to avoid overlap.

Explanations at U.N. European Headquarters
     Yamamoto spoke in English on the bashing of Japanese triggered by the installment of comfort woman statues and memorials in the United States, claiming that the comfort women problem has gone beyond the issue of women's human rights and been exploited for political campaigns to dishonor Japanese.
     I focused on the point that there was no forcible recruitment of comfort women and explained that the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which had spread the problem throughout the world, has admitted to erroneous reports on the problem and issued corrections. "While the problem is still labeled in the international community as representing a war crime amounting to Nazi Germany's Holocaust, it is groundless," I said in French.
     After our speeches, we received some questions from members of the committee:
     A committee member: Are you related to the government?
     Our side: No. We represent purely private organizations.
     A committee member: Today, we heard for the first time that there was no forcible recruitment of comfort women. Your opinions are fully opposite to those given in the past. While your opinions are difficult to trust immediately, we would like to hear more details on this different opinion regarding comfort women.
     In response, we used a published U.S. document (Report No. 49 on U.S. forces' interrogation of Korean comfort women in Myitkyina, Burma (now called Myanmar), in 1944) for explaining that comfort women were not sex slaves,
     Lastly, the chairperson said that the committee for the first time heard the opinion that there was no forcible recruitment of comfort women and that the committee would keep the existence of two different views in mind about the comfort women problem.

Questions from the committee
     In fact, many from leftist Japanese groups such as the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and the Japan NGO Network for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women attended and gave presentations at the pre-session. They claimed that Japan has not sufficiently apologized for the comfort women problem representing Japan's grave war crime and that accounts on comfort women have been deleted from school textbooks.
     A list of issues submitted by the committee to the Japanese government on July 30 included a new inquiry that had not been seen earlier: “The committee is informed of recent public statements that ‘there was no evidence that proved the forcible taken away [of ‘comfort women’].’ Please comment this information.”
     I strongly hope that the government in response to the inquiry will resolutely declare its official view is that there was no forcible recruitment of comfort women.

Mio Sugita is a former House of Representatives lawmaker of the Party for Future Generations.