The Shame of Hwang v. Japan: How the International Community Has Failed Asia's 'Comfort Women'

Citation:

Ahmed, Afreen R. 2004. “The Shame of Hwang v. Japan: How the International Community Has Failed Asia's 'Comfort Women.'” Texas Journal of Women & the Law 14 (1): 1-121.

Author: Afreen R. Ahmed

Abstract:

In 1897, the Japanese intellectual Uchimura Kanzo wrote in an essay entitled "National Repentance," but it was not until 1937 that Japan began greatly expanding its officially sanctioned and closely regulated "comfort system" for the sexual gratification of the Japanese soldiers as they waged war throughout East Asia and the Pacific. The states parties to the treaty included some whose nationals had been enslaved as "comfort women" - Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the Philippines - but the treaty contained no mention of the victims of rape, forced prostitution, or sexual slavery. Japan has argued that during the war, neither slavery nor wartime rape was proscribed by conventional or customary international law. The sexual enslavement of the "comfort women" during World War II was, without a doubt, a violation of the customary international law regarding slavery and slavery-like practices. Documents subsequent to Hague IV confirm that rape and forced prostitution were considered violations of the customary international law of war. On the one hand, both Japanese and Allied military cultures regarded rape as an acceptable side effect of war; on the other hand, the post-war Asian cultures regarded the rape victim as socially unacceptable, partly to blame for her victimization, and nothing more than a source of shame.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, International Law, Livelihoods, Sexual livelihoods, Sexual Violence, Rape, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Sexual Slavery, SV against women Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: Japan

Year: 2004

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