From war brothels to cybersex? | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

From war brothels to cybersex?

/ 02:49 AM January 30, 2014

Last year Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said the use of “comfort women” in World War II was “necessary” to keep battle-stressed soldiers in fighting form. His comments sparked outrage in Asian countries and even drew US criticism. Agence France-Presse cited a survey showing that a large majority of Japanese disagreed with the mayor’s position.

This is the 21st century, we are in the third millennium, and Hashimoto didn’t know that having sex slaves is a crime against humanity. At any time, in any place and circumstance.


A similar tempest made the news days ago when Katsuto Momii, Japan’s newly appointed head of public broadcasting station NHK, said military brothels during World War II was “common in any country at war.” And he said this in his first news conference as NHK chair. He might as well have stressed that these comfort women were not Japanese exported abroad to ease the Japanese soldiers’ aching groins but women and girls of the Asian countries Japan occupied and tried to subjugate with much cruelty—the Philippines, Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, etc.

Stoking old, unhealed wounds must be the expertise of some Japanese officials conceived during the war years. Momii, 70, was a babe crawling on his belly while his elders were skewering women and babies abroad.


The Associated Press also quoted Momii as saying that: “The comfort women system is considered wrong under today’s moral values. But the military comfort women system existed as a reality [during World War II].” A necessary reality? He then lashed at South Korea for continuing to demand compensation and for criticizing Japan, “as if Japan was the only one that forcibly drafted women into the system.”

As far as I know, only Japan’s disgusting use of comfort women (aka sex slaves) as part of its military boosting strategy has been condemned openly by no less than the victims themselves. Documents indeed showed that the sex abuses were not random or spur-of-the-moment but part of a deliberate effort to fortify soldiers and put them in best fighting form—through sex with unwilling victims.

One can conclude that this was part of their military belief system. It’s a system that leads to strange syndromes like that of Hiroo Onoda, the soldier who refused to surrender after the war was over and stuck it out in the Philippine jungle for 30 years until his existence was discovered in 1974. (He died early this month at the age of 91.)

Like Hashimoto, is Momii also insisting that having sex slaves was okay then? What about now?

Here I am repeating myself…

In 2000 I covered the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal in Tokyo that investigated and tried atrocities against women in countries occupied by Japan during World War II. This was some 60 years after the war crimes were committed. The trial was initiated by civil society, human rights and women’s groups from Asia, Europe, and the host country, Japan.

The Philippine delegation of some 20 former sex slaves/comfort women, all in their twilight years, had suffered rape and other cruelties in the hands of Japanese soldiers. I wrote about this in the Inquirer (“Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal,” Dec. 5, 2000), and the piece is included in my book (“Human Face: A Journalist’s Encounters and Awakenings,” Anvil Publishing and Inquirer Books, 2013).


I did notice then that delegations from countries with emerging economies—for example, South Korea and China—brought in their women survivors with dramatic aplomb, festering rage and showiness. In contrast, those from the Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia, North Korea and Taiwan were more subdued, but no less zealous in their quest for justice.

If the complainants did not get direct profuse apologies and material compensation from the Japanese government, they had at least poetic justice when documents previously hidden were presented for the first time to prove that unspeakable crimes had been committed indeed. This, despite the postwar Japanese government’s deliberate attempt to destroy war documents that had to do with violations of international laws and its refusal to make documents available.

Tomasa Salinog of Antique and Rosa Henson of Pampanga, two of the most vocal former comfort women who emerged from the shadows with their harrowing stories before they passed on, must be turning in their graves. Salinog was present at the Tokyo tribunal and refused compensation if it was not from the Japanese government.

Historians estimate that as many as 200,000 Asian women and girls were turned into sex slaves during World War II.

Justifying the use of sex slaves or war brothels even in the past is short of saying that rape during wartime is somewhat excusable, if not unavoidable in the present time. It’s like saying, Sorry, it happens, you know.

Now, visiting military forces generally resort to sex for pay. Think of them relieving themselves in brothels. Think of the social, psychological, emotional and generational outcomes of this military mindset.

So what will the likes of Hashimoto and Momii have in a 21st-century war scenario? If soldiers cannot have live warm bodies at their bidding, will those with the we-need-comfort-women mindset resort to cybersex? The justification being that this time the women and girls are “willing” and paid performers, not slaves. No body contact, no force, just women as commodities.

The militant postwar and future generations of women must continue to hound and educate the postwar and future generations of men who think war and sex are like coffee and cream, or like sashimi and wasabi.

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TAGS: cybersex, hiroo onoda, World War II
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