Women’s rights group Lila Pilipina called for a formal apology for comfort women from the Japanese government and a declaration of the comfort women system as a war crime from the Philippine government in a forum on Thursday at the College of Education Theater.

The forum, entitled “Remembering our Lolas; Opposing Wars of Aggression,” was held by Lila Pilipina with the Flowers for Lolas Campaign and Gabriela Youth UP Diliman to encourage the discussion of the issues of comfort women during the Japanese occupation.

Fondly called “lolas” or grandmothers, comfort women during World War II are victims of institutionalized military sexual slavery by Japanese soldiers. Lila Pilipina was created to help them in their fight for justice, reparations, and historical inclusion.

Sharon Cabusao-Silva, executive director of Lila Pilipina and coordinator of Gabriela Women’s Political Rights program, also said that proper compensation should be given to the lolas, most of which have already died waiting for justice.

The plight of comfort women was not discovered until after the war due to the destruction of records, according to Dr. Ricardo Jose, an expert in military and diplomatic history, Philippine-Japan relations, and World War II in the Philippines.

“It is said that when Japan surrendered, makikita mo ‘yung mga pillars ng usok because they were burning everything that was sensitive to them,” he added.

Due to this, no one has been held accountable for the exploitation of an estimated 1,000 Filipinas who served as comfort women in 1941-1945.

“Nagbunga rin ng culture of impunity yung pagsusunog ng mga Hapones sa mga patunay na nangyari ito at syempre yung pagsasawalang bahala ng government para igiit talaga yung ating mga panawagan,” said Lian Valencia, Chairperson of Gabriela Youth-UP Diliman.

“Wars of aggression breed militarism and state-sanctioned terrorism in order to keep its control over the entire population, and this becomes fertile ground for all forms of abuse,” said Cabusao-Silva.

There have been numerous recorded instances of various forms of sexual violence by occupying troops. An example is the indictment from the International Military Tribunal for the Far East of several Japanese officials for failing to stop the rape of thousands of women and girls during the Nanking Massacre in China.

In addition, genocidal rape was recognized as a form of genocide under international law in 1998 after the Rwandan genocide when up to half a million women and children were raped, sexually mutilated, or murdered.

In the Philippines, this is evident in the widespread prostitution in areas around US army bases like Subic, Zambales because of “a situation of poverty and militarism,” she added.

The struggle of comfort women gained traction when a statue built for them in Roxas Boulevard was removed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) last April 28 to make way for a drainage system improvement.

The forum was held in connection with the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women this November 25. TNP

Photo by Raevien Pintang

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