Posted by: Chuck | September 1, 2013

Comfort Women


Comfort women were women and girls forced into a prostitution corps created by the Empire of Japan during World War II. The name “comfort women” is a translation of a Japanese name ianfu (慰安婦).  Ianfu is a euphemism for shōfu (娼婦) whose meaning is “prostitute(s).”

Chinese girl from one of the Japanese Army's '...

Chinese girl from one of the Japanese Army’s ‘comfort battalions’ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 from some Japanese scholars  to as high as 410,000 from some Chinese scholars, but the exact numbers are still being researched and debated. Many of the women were from Korea, China, and the Philippines, although women from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and other Japanese-occupied territories were used for military “comfort stations”. Stations were located in Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, then Malaya, Thailand, Burma, New Guinea, Hong Kong, Macau, and French Indochina.

According to testimony, young women from countries under Japanese Imperial control were abducted from their homes. In many cases, women were also lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants. Once recruited, the women were incarcerated in “comfort stations” in foreign lands. A Dutch government study described how the Japanese military itself recruited women by force in the Dutch East Indies. It revealed that a total of 300 Dutch women had been coerced into Japanese military sex slavery.

Lack of official documentation has made estimates of the total number of comfort women difficult, as vast amounts of material pertaining to matters related to war crimes and the war responsibility of the nation’s highest leaders were destroyed on the orders of the Japanese government at the end of the war. Historians have arrived at various estimates by looking at surviving documentation which indicate the ratio of the number of soldiers in a particular area to the number of women, as well as looking at replacement rates of the women. Historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, who conducted the first academic study on the topic which brought the issue out into the open, estimated the number to be between 50,000 and 200,000. Based on these estimates, most international media sources quote about 200,000 young women were recruited or kidnapped by soldiers to serve in Japanese military brothels. The BBC quotes “200,000 to 300,000” and the International Commission of Jurists quotes “estimates of historians of 100,000 to 200,000 women.”

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