By guest author Dot Walsh
Comfort women were women and girls forced into prostitution by the Japanese government during World War II. The name “comfort women” was taken from a Japanese word meaning prostitute.
In reality these women were sex slaves for the military. The recruitment was not voluntary but often involved kidnapping from countries taken over by the Japanese army.
A recent article in the New York Times highlighted a speech given by Mr. Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, who maintained that “comfort women” served a useful purpose: “When soldiers are risking their lives by running through storms of bullets, and you want to give these emotionally charged soldiers a rest somewhere, it’s clear that you need a comfort women system.”
In 2007 Andrea LeBlanc and I joined Japanese peacemakers in Korea on a journey modeled after the Peace Abbey’s Stonewalk. The intention of the Japanese was to apologize for the atrocities committed against the Korean people including the tragedy of the “comfort women.”
During the journey we visited a home for the aging “comfort women,” many of whom had never been able to marry or have a normal life because of the stigma of what had happened to them. We were invited to stay overnight and to meet with the women who lived there. On the property is a museum with graphic pictures of the events that brought them to this place. Many of the survivors bear emotional scars and have never healed.
The following day we pulled the stone to the front door of the Japanese embassy where a vigil is held every week. For Andrea and me, it was an honor to be in the company of these women whose gentle spirits and commitment to speaking truth to power was inspiring.
During the occupation as many as 200,000 or more women (estimated numbers) were confined as sex slaves.
Dot Walsh, longtime peace activist