A human rights issue still emerges from the war: Japanese army personnel were massively guilty of the war crime of coercive prostitution. The number of “comfort girls” now appears to be much larger than thought. At least half a million women from 35 countries were victims.
By GRISELDA MOLEMANS
Translation from Dutch to English – Ronny Geenen
Since the Japanese invasion of China in 1931, the Japanese army leadership rolled out a system of coercive prostitution in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. This system under strict supervision was set up in the deepest secrecy to prevent rapes by frothing soldiers and marines. At the same time, the strict brothel regulations to prevent venereal diseases and the brothels contributed to keeping the men happy.
It was a fine-grained system many accomplices knew: village chiefs and local hotel operators collaborated.
Young women were forcibly employed or lured with false promises to be paid as waitresses or laundry women. The reality was that they had to serve an average of 20 to 40 men a day. Sometimes, under heavy pressure, they wore only a dress without underwear and were given morphine and laudanum.
In the brothels were strict hygiene rules. The use of condoms was mandatory. The young women were checked weekly for diseases. Pregnancies were aborted and a number of victims were sterilized.
Many parents tried to protect their daughters. They cut their hair short, tied off the breasts, or let them put boys’ clothes on. Some hid their daughters in basements or hid them throughout the war.
For each woman employed, three others had to be ready to replace her: some were so young that physical violence killed them. Others committed suicide or were killed when they were found to be pregnant.
From 1944 on when Japan was on the losing side, their aggression increased. After the Allied counteroffensive on Dutch New Guinea, all the comfort girls and women in the capital Hollandia were killed because they were seen as potential witnesses.
After the war, a number of Japanese soldiers were convicted of sexual violence. The verdicts disappeared into archives, leaving them in oblivion and concealing the extent of jurisprudence. Moreover, the sentences of the war criminals were later reduced, leaving the majority imprisoned for only a limited number of years.
Under pressure from the United States, the allied countries kept Japan as a buffer against the spread of communism.
So far, it has been assumed that there were some 200,000 “comfort girls and women”, most of them Korean. The staggering truth, however, appears to have been covered up for years, not least by the majority of the 35 countries and city-states involved who represent at least half a million victims.
Geopolitical motives and trade interests with Japan appear to outweigh human rights. It can also be explained that the abundant evidence for the systematic abuse has hardly been published.
It is located in archives in the Netherlands, England, United States, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. With the highlights of the case law regarding rape and coercive prostitution and the money trail of the army and naval brothels.
The money the young women earned was not paid to them, but deposited at two Japanese war banks: Yokohama Specie Bank and the Bank of Taiwan.
Both banks were set up to finance Japanese warfare. A report of the naval brothels on Borneo, prepared by the Dutch military intelligence service in the former Dutch East Indies, reveals the link with these war banks.
But there is more; decisive evidence appears to be locked up in Dutch archives (the NIOS and National Archives), which has allowed a false narrative to be maintained for years. Supposedly 65 and possibly 300 women have fallen victim to coercive prostitution in the Dutch colony.
It turns out there were about 70,000: Dutch, Indo-European, Native Indonesian, Moluccan, Chinese and Papua.
And since the Dutch have had the evidence sealed until 2026, it has not been revealed that American, Australian and German women have also been abused as “comfort women” in the Dutch East Indies. To this day the Japanese government still owes an apology to the thousands of victims, but they got away with it because almost all the countries involved have deliberately looked the other way: Business with Japan have been going for the consolation girl for almost 75 years.
The 35 countries, urban states and autonomous regions involved: Bougainville di Buka, Brunei, Cambodia, China including Hainan, Philippines, French Polynesia, Hong Kong, India & the Andamans Islands, Indonesia, Kinbati, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nauru, North Korea, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Germany, France, Britain, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, USA & Guam, Australia.