Toru Hashimoto

Toru Hashimoto

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” George Santayana

Rape is necessary to boost the morale of soldiers – according to one politician who has caused outrage by trivialising the sexual slavery of thousands of Asian women during the world war.

Japanese mayor Toru Hashimoto, is co-leader of an emerging conservative political party, which has been compared to the Tea Party in America. He said that the forced prostitution of women during wartime was “necessary” to maintain discipline within the military.

He said: “To maintain discipline in the military, it must have been necessary at that time. For soldiers who risked their lives in circumstances where bullets are flying around like rain and wind, if you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary. That’s clear to anyone.”

Hashimoto is a young, controversial mayor of Osaka in Japan and is known for making offensive comments.

He also urged the American military to make use of the sex industry in Japan and said that legalized sexual services should be used to keep marines’ sexual appetites under control.

The disclosure came on the evening of May 13, hours after he said “comfort women,” or those forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during World War II, were a necessary part of war.

Hashimoto told reporters, “The sex industry, if not the comfort women system, is necessary.”
He said he told the commander that “Japan has places where sexual energy can be released within the law. It is impossible to control the sexual energy of hotblooded marines properly unless such places are officially made use of. Principles aside, I ask you to make good use of such places.”
One of the little known and horrific facts of World War II is that hundreds of thousands of Asian women, girls and female prisoners of war were ‘conscripted’ into sexual slavery by being forced into prostitution by the Japanese government.

Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean Peninsula, Indonesia and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels just before and during the war.

Girls as young as nine were kidnapped by the Japanese military who were recruited under government policy to venture into other parts of Asia, forcibly kidnap these women and beat them into submission.

They were then made to work in brothels where they were euphemistically called “comfort women” and made to “entertain” the troops.

Many of them died from internal injuries, infections, diseases and suicide. Others were murdered by the soldiers after repeated sexual abuse.

Paini was one of many "comfort women" tortured by repeated sexual abuse during the war

Paini was one of many “comfort women” tortured by repeated sexual abuse during the war

But faced with criticism from the US government, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, Hashimoto remained unrepentant.

In fact he added that men, in particular soldiers, are unable to control their sexual desires thus making it necessary to target women who may or may not be willing: “It is a reality that men need ways to satisfy their sexual desires. Looking at countries around the world, measures for sexual gratification were offered to service members.”

But in a slightly contradictory statement he then went on to deny that women were ever forced into prostitution and said: “Those who became comfort women against their will are a product of the tragedy of war. Japan bears part of the responsibility for war. We must understand their feelings and make consideration.

“In those days, not only Japan but also other countries used a comfort women system for their military.
“With bullets flying like a rainstorm, soldiers were running, risking their lives. If rest could be provided to an army of such overwrought warriors, anyone can understand that a comfort women system was necessary. If evidence is found, we must recognize the claim. But a Cabinet decision made in 2007 (under the Abe Cabinet) says no such evidence has been found. We must make that point clear.”
But his views were directly contradicted by past acknowledgments of these crimes against humanity by previous Japanese governments.

In 1995, the then Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Mureyama, publicly acknowledged the atrocities committed and apologised for the crimes against humanity committed during this period.

During a speech made in July 1995, Mureyama said: “The problem of the so-called wartime comfort women is one such scar, which, with the involvement of the Japanese military forces of the time, seriously stained the honor and dignity of many women. This is entirely inexcusable. I offer my profound apology to all those who, as wartime comfort women, suffered emotional and physical wounds that can never be closed.”

A previous speech made in 1990 by the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Nakayama, said: “Japan is deeply sorry for the tragedy in which these people were moved to Sakhalin not of their own free will but by the design of the Japanese government and had to remain there after the conclusion of the war.”

The current government in Japan, under the leadership of prime minister Shinzo Abe, has also released a statement stating that despite previous threats to do so, it will not ‘revise’ or dismiss Japan’s previous apologies on the issue.

Abe has acknowledged “comfort women” existed but has denied that they were coerced into prostitution, citing a lack of official evidence. Despite this, his chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga repeated the previous government position and said those women went through unbearable pain.

“The stance of the Japanese government on the comfort women issue is well known. They have suffered unspeakably painful experiences. The Abe Cabinet has the same sentiments as the past Cabinet.”

Then there is the testimony of thousands of women – women such as Like Niyam for example. Ms Niyam was born in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. At the tender age of 10 she was kidnapped and trafficked with dozens of other women, destined for a military camp in West Java. She shared a small tent with two other girls, where soldiers publicly raped them.

She told reporters: “I was still so young. Within two months my body was completely destroyed. I was nothing but a toy, as a human being I meant nothing, that’s how it felt during the Japanese era.”

Eventually she managed to escape and return home to her parents. But the stigma and psychological trauma stayed with her.

“I didn’t dare tell anyone that I had been raped, I didn’t want to hurt my parents. I was afraid that no one would want me, that I would be left out. But people still abused me by calling me a ‘Japanese hand-me-down.’ Because I had been gone so long, they suspected what had happened. It hurt me tremendously”, she added.

The sexual slavery and rape of hundreds of thousands of women were by no means the only atrocity, committed by the Japanese military at the time. For thousands of Chinese and Korean prisoners of war were captured and had biological and chemical experiments performed on them at the notorious Unit 731 – a camp that was second only to Auschwitz in terms of its brutality and in the number of prisoners captured.

There were also many prisoners who had their organs surgically removed and stolen without anesthetic while they were alive, before being disposed of.

During that period, the Rape of Nanking took place, where over a six week period, there was mass murder and rape that followed the Japanese capture of the city of Nanking (Nanjing), the former capital of the Republic of China.

But Japan is not the only country in the world to have committed these acts of barbarity and brutality. Germany, the US, Britain and Serbia, are just a few of the countries in the world which have systematically used a system of kidnap, rape, torture on a mass and unprecedented scale during times of war – dating back to ancient times.

Therefore, the refusal of politicians, governments and humanity in general to learn from these occurrences is a very frightening fact indeed. Right now in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for example, mass sexual enslavement of women and children are being committed by rebels in the country – who have been armed by Western imperialist organisations. So if ever there was a reason to oppose war and join an anti-war group, this is it.

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