Comfort women belong in transitional justice act: Ma

not alone::The former president cited a UN report, which said the victims should be referred to as sex slaves, and held Japan culpable for rape and ‘severe physical abuse’

By Lin Liang-sheng and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tue, Sep 04, 2018 - Page 3

If the government truly cares about achieving transitional justice, it should include the Japanese Imperial Army’s treatment of “comfort women” in the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (促進轉型正義條例), former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday.

The act covers injustices from Aug. 15, 1945, when Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender, which is two months before Taiwan’s “retrocession” on Oct. 25 of that year, Ma said.

If the government truly cares about transitional justice, it should seek justice for the women, he said, adding that it is the only way to do right by the victims of Japanese sexual exploitation.

During protests against adjustments to the high-school curriculum in 2015, some high-school students said that Taiwanese volunteered as comfort women, Ma said, adding that he felt ashamed about their remarks at the time.

People who make such remarks do not realize that, unlike comfort women in South Korea and other nations, who were kidnapped and threatened, most of the victims in Taiwan were tricked into sexual exploitation, he said, adding that many thought they were going to be working as caregivers.

The case of the comfort women is a model for women around the world who are fighting for human rights protection, Ma said.

In a 1996 report, the UN Human Rights Council said that the phrase “comfort women” was overly euphemistic and that victims should instead be referred to as “military sexual slaves,” Ma said.

“The phrase ‘comfort women’ does not in the least reflect the suffering, such as multiple rapes on an everyday basis and severe physical abuse, that women victims had to endure during their forced prostitution and sexual subjugation and abuse in wartime,” the UN report said.

In 2007, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed Resolution 121, in which it condemned Japan’s wartime behavior and called on the Japanese government to pay reparations, Ma said.

Three years ago, the Japanese government at a news conference apologized for its aggression and colonialism, he said.

However, with regards to the comfort women, it only said: “We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honor and dignity were severely injured,” Ma said.

At the time, he said Japan should “do better,” but some critics said his goal was to destroy Taiwan-Japan relations, Ma said.

His attitude toward historical events has always been to face them, consider a matter on its merits, distinguish between right and wrong, face the victims, empathize with them and heal their pain, he said, adding that he has always treated historical events fairly.

He constructed the Yoichi Hatta Memorial Park (八田與一紀念園區) in Tainan, which honors a Japanese engineer, and when the Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred seven years later, he went on TV to raise funds for Japan, Ma said.

He said he did not hesitate to provide humanitarian aid when necessary, but would not waver in the face of war crimes, either.