Japan’s sex slaves

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


THERE was this report about the unresolved historical incident in Southeast Asia during World War II. This is about Japan’s “sex slaves” centers set up in various areas of their conquered and occupied territories.

The story’s head said: “Japan 'won’t revise’ sex-slave apology.” Apparently, nations in the Asian region where the travesty was committed had asked Japan for an apology.

But Japan “has no plan to revise a landmark 1993 apology over wartime sex slavery.”

This decision was said by a top Japanese government spokesman “despite a controversial review of the statement which has sparked a backlash at home and abroad.” The landmark apology is known as the “Kono statement.” It acknowledged official complicity in the coercion of women across Asia.

To recall, the Japanese military, in an effort to satisfy the “sexual needs” of its personnel overseas, established “a system of wartime brothels,” something that invited opposition and resentment from neighboring areas, particularly South Korea, which received the brunt of Japanese exploitation.

This information had reached our shores ahead of the Japanese occupation of Philippine territories. Thus, when actual occupation ensued, the atrocities perpetrated by Japanese soldiers were already well-known to the Filipinos who cowered in abject misery and fear at the presence of Japanese soldiers in their towns.

I was eleven years old when World War II broke out, and I sort of witnessed what were later reported in our history books in college. As to the sex slave center, I recall that one was set up in a big house in our town.

The place was owned by a Filipina married to an American before the war. The American owned the Photo Materials business firm in Cebu City, on the backside of the Sto. Niño Church. But in Balamban, his house was on a corner behind the church, along the provincial highway.

It was located a few houses away from our own, towards the central elementary school where the soldiers lived. Thus they were a walking distance from the kept women they called “imbay."

We lived right between the machine gun nest of the military at the street corner of the central school and the Kempetai’s quarters (the equivalent of our military police), which was just a few houses away from the sex-slave center. It took me quite some time to adjust to the idea that the place had become a center where Japanese soldiers could have free sex at the expense of our hapless women.

Many months earlier, when Mr. Harsteine came for a visit, he would stand at the top of the concrete stairs, throwing newly minted centavo coins at us on the front yard.

But now, the tall and beautiful two-storey concrete house has become a symbol of our political subjection and individual captivity, becoming as it was sex-slave center. We really should ask Japan to make a clean breast of it, and be formally at peace with its Asian neighbors.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 13, 2014.

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