The government should update how school textbooks address Taiwanese women forced into prostitution by the Japanese army during World War II, a women’s rights group said Friday.
The Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation urged that the term “comfort women,” which is used in junior-high and high-school textbooks and curriculums, be changed to “military sexual slaves,” as this term is used in a 1995 UN report.
Taiwan should adopt the term used by the UN Human Rights Commission, the foundation said on Friday, the International Memorial Day for Comfort Women.
The foundation also reiterated its call for the Japanese government to formally apologize to women enslaved in World War II and compensate them.
An apology is essential, especially as Japan seeks to become one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, the foundation said.
The issue has reverberated throughout Asia in places occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war, most notably in South Korea and Taiwan, it said, adding that Japan reached an agreement with South Korea in December 2015, apologized to enslaved women in the country and set up a US$8.3 million fund to help them.
Despite repeated lawsuits, the Taiwanese women have never received the same treatment and the Japanese government has been reluctant to recognize their plight, the foundation said.
More than 2,000 Taiwanese women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese during World War II, it said, adding that the foundation is only aware of two of the women still being alive.
“The foundation helps people remember the history of the ‘comfort women’ every year on International Memorial Day,” said Yeh Der-lan (葉德蘭), the president of the foundation that has championed the rights of sexually enslaved women for nearly three decades.
Speaking of the two women who are still alive, Yeh said the foundation has only been able to offer “meager” compensation to them, which is insufficient in view of the women’s experience during the war.
“But the resilience they have shown and their ability to find harmony in their lives are worthy of emulation and respect,” Yeh said.
The foundation would continue to appeal to the Japanese, it said, adding that it would also continue to educate the public on the issue and tell the women’s stories.
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