When Sorry is not Enough
The phrase "comfort women" is a controversial term that refers to approximately 200,000 women who were recruited as prostitutes by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Many of the young women were forced into servitude and exploited as sex slaves throughout Asia, becoming victims of the largest case of human trafficking in the 20th century. Since human trade is a terrible crime against human rights, the Japanese government must pay compensation to former comfort women despite that payment will never give them back their innocence and youth.
There are specific protections of international documents which are violated by the trafficking of women, for example the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. It also violates other more general human rights norms such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (UDHR), Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This kind of trafficking is considered a crime against humanity and a war crime by all the previous norms.
A number of former Comfort Women from occupied countries including Korea, China, and the Philippines, have filed lawsuits against the Japanese government, and have raised the issue with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. They claim that they were forced to serve and were treated badly in the centers, often sustaining permanent health damage. Surviving comfort women have been offered unofficial apologies and financial awards but many have refused until the government of Japan takes full responsibility.
The Japanese government has firmly maintained that the San Francisco Peace Treaty and various bilateral agreements between Japan and other nations have settled all postwar claims of compensation. Nonetheless, in response to mounting international pressure to compensate former comfort women, the government has acknowledged its moral responsibility for the suffering imposed on them and it helped establish the Asian Women's Fund (AWF) to express "a sense of national atonement from the Japanese people to the former 'comfort women,' and to work to address contemporary issues regarding the honor and dignity of women. However, this assistance is not enough to heal the psychological and physical damage these women have received. Maria Rosa Henson, a former comfort woman said:
Half a century had passed. Maybe my anger and resentment were no longer as fresh. Telling my story has made it easier for me to be reconciled with the past. But I am still hoping to see justice done before I die.
Comfort women will never forget about their past as long as Japan keeps denying the gravity and impact of what the country inflicted on these women. The damage they received will never be healed with an apology. Human rights must be respected nowadays in order to prevent future calamities.
Brooks, K. (2013, November 25). The History Of 'Comfort Women': A WWII Tragedy We can't Forget. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
Lewis, J. (n.d.). Women and World War II - Comfort Women. Retrieved August 22, 2014, from http://womenshistory.about.com/od/warwwii/a/comfort_women.htm
Trafficking Violates Women's Human Rights. (2005, September 1). Retrieved August 22, 2014, from http://www.stopvaw.org/trafficking_violates_women_s_human_rights