“Soldiers risked their lives in circumstances where bullets were flying around like rain and wind. To give them some rest, the comfort women system was necessary. That’s apparent to everyone.” This claim was made by Osaka’s Mayor Toru Hashimoto in May 2013.
To date, this notion is widely accepted as self-evident—during World War II as well as today.
Armies, and in particular conscript armies that field “citizen-soldiers” face the task of preparing their men to become direct military actors—that is, to be willing to face two of the most extreme experiences of human existence: the power to kill and the possibility of being killed.
Military schooling trains men, physically and psychologically, in order to unleash their potential for violence but—at the same time—to channel it towards military goals. A soldier is supposed to be dominant and aggressive, but he should also be submissive and follow orders. A soldier has to perpetrate violence, but he also has to endure violence.
Military commanders take into account that the men experience this conditioning as imposition. For the expected subjection, the military therefore promises to compensate the individual. As Jan Philipp Reemtsma argues, “The order ‘You must!’ is accompanied by the license ‘You may.’”
“Soldiers are not only disciplined more rigorously than other people,” Reemtsma continues, “they can also—at least during war—take more liberties.” One of the liberties that the Japanese Army Command granted its men was the perpetration of sexual violence.
The sexual activity of the men, however, should be channeled and stay under control. The Army Command thus established a regulated and supervised system of “comfort stations”. Thereby they aimed at keeping their men from raping women at random (which risked to cause resistance in local populations) and preventing the spread of sexually transmitted disease.
Both measures were unsuccessful, as Yuki Tanaka has convincingly shown. Still, sexual satisfaction appeared as a form of leisure and a means of sublimating men’s hardships, in particular their fear to become crippled or die.
This is what Osaka’s mayor Toru Hashimoto finds so self-evident.
And, indeed, it might be understandable that the (often very young) men at war should want to have sex, if only as a temporary escape.
However, it must be remembered that consensual sex and rape are dramatically different.
The girls and women in the “comfort stations” did not consent. The majority of them was kidnapped or deceived and forced into sexual enslavement. And even if some woman initially agreed to work in a “comfort station” to ensure the survival of their family, they were by no means free. They were not allowed to go out as they wished, they could not reject a customer, or quit their job.
Ultimately, all “comfort women” lived in a situation that was characterized by force and violence. In addition, all women were confronted with the direct physical violence that the soldiers, who had been brutalized from the war, perpetrated against women.
Hashimoto’s statement is thus much more than cynical. It is misogynist and inhumane.
Mr. Abe, we urge you to take full responsibility for Japan’s crime of drafting women and girls for military sexual slavery. Compensation Now!
Dear reader, join us again tomorrow when we will take our protest for „Comfort Women“ rights to the streets …