Japanese Military Comfort Women

Comfort zones existed in Japan during the Second World War in the period between 1937 and 1945. These comfort zones had thousands of women whose purpose was to serve Japanese military men in a bid to motivate them to remain in war. The Japanese army acquired these women illegally, denied them their rights and forced them to work for them. The women underwent too much inhumane suffering at the hands of the military men. In the past years, a number of the women have decided to come out and reveal the horrific experiences they had in the hands of soldiers in the comfort zones. The debate about the comfort zones has been going on in Japan, but the Japanese government has constantly denied the existence of comfort zones. Therefore, it is necessary to know how these comfort zones came into existence, how they affected women, and why the government keeps denying their existence. However, there has never been substantial evidence against the government of Japan to compel it into taking accountability for the actions of its soldiers. During the Second World War, in the 1940’s, Japan was at war with China and several western countries. The officials of the Japanese army, in a bid to motivate their soldiers to remain at the battlefields, introduced comfort zones. In these comfort zones, the soldiers were provided with women to help them in their domestic chores and to quench their sexual urges. The kind of experience that the women had in the comfort zones were terrific leading to adverse effects that haunt them up to date, for those lucky to be still alive. The government has never come clean about the comfort zones issue, and has led to much speculation from the international scene. Hence, what are comfort zones and why has the Japanese government constantly denied their existence or given different excuses towards this in its military endeavors of World War 2?

In the comfort stations, the women were subjected to hard labor and sexual abuses. Many were even killed for none cooperation as others committed suicide due to the inhumane treatment they were subjected to in the camps (Rosca, 1995). The comfort zones were among the many means of motivation that the Japanese military applied to keep their soldiers focused on the war with the western countries. They were areas where women, who were referred to as comfort women, were found and provided an avenue for the soldiers to quench their sexual urges (Matsumoto, 1984). Majority of these women was deprived of their rights and underwent around the clock brutality in the hands of the soldiers. The women were lured with promises of jobs from their deprived regions. Jobs promised were lucrative e.g. nursing, pharmacy, factory workers, cooks etc. Others were bought from brothels or sold as slaves from needy families (Hayashi, 2008). I believe that the government of Japan would never want to associate itself with such kind of inhumanity and genocide. Therefore, continuously, they have kept denying that indeed, in the comfort zones were women were used and abused in all manners. No government would want to associate itself with such criminal activities. Also, it is worth noting that during the period, the state(s) that were fighting were in a state of desperation. However, this does not justify the misuse of women and the rapes that happened in the comfort zones. 

This study aims at addressing how the comfort zones were formed, why they were formed and why the Japanese government has always denied their existence. The comfort zones were created for the military, where women were used to help the soldiers in all manners they pleased. A number of scholars have dealt with this topic before and I intend to use their works to base my arguments. Hayashi (1998), states that many comfort women came from the conquests of the Japanese empires such as Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, and China. Studies have shown that even some prostitutes from Japan itself were part of those carried away to become sex slaves for the soldiers. On being captured, they were immediately subjected to forceful “medical check-ups” to ascertain their health. It was another violation of the right to privacy. Sexual harassment was also a vice experienced by the women even before they reached the camps, mainly from the medical personnel who raped the virgins and any other they found to be disease free (Keller, 1997). In the comfort stations, the women were subjected to long hours of manual labor doing duties such as laundry after which they would be expected to serve the soldiers in any manner they were requested to including sexual duties. There were cases of one woman serving up to sixty men in a day. It was a case of legalized military rape (Soh, 2000). In many cases the women contracted venereal diseases that made their lives even more unbearable and even leading to death. There were so many unwanted pregnancies as a result of the vice, and children suffered even more as they had no one to take care of them (Izumi, 2011). Even after the war, women’s suffering did not seize due to the sexual dysfunction due to the physical damage to their bodies, the trauma and the social stigma from their families for those lucky enough to have returned. Others such as the Koreans and Chinese women taken to the far pacific regions of the empire were left to die (Frühstück, 2006).

This research is very significant. The topic has been researched but not conclusively since the findings bore no results. Numerous legal redresses have been sought by the former comfort women with the Japanese government coming under great scrutiny even from the international community.

The court ruling in Japan in favor of two former comfort women is a shot in the arm for those seeking justice (Havens 1975). This research will help us to identify who exactly is responsible for the crimes committed against comfort women. It should help us to identify whether Japanese government should compensate the women for the hardships they went through. The paper can help to comfort women of Japan who were mistreated to achieve justice.

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