Background Information of and Explanation for Enhancement of Resolution for Issues concerning Victims of Wartime Sexual Slavery Act

Regarding the Enhancement of Resolution for Issues concerning Victims of Wartime Sexual Slavery Act, which are now being discussed, I would like to talk about the reasons for the proposal and the summary of the contents.

              There have been more than half a century since the end of this past war (World War II) and the 21st century is just around the corner.  However, because Japan has inflicted great suffering to Asian nations through its aggression and colonial rule, the people of these nations still feel insecurity and have a very strong distrust against Japan.  One of the direct causes for this distrust is the “comfort woman” issue.  The so-called “comfort women” were the Asian women—including teenagers—who were conscripted against their will by means of threats and flatteries by the Imperial Japanese military or military police during World War II, who were forced to work at such places as military-owned comfort stations as sex slaves, and whose honor and dignity as women have been deeply violated.

              Only after the need for investigation was pointed out at the Standing Committee on Budget of the House of Councilors, the “comfort woman” issues became recognized as a social problem in this post war era.  In the beginning, the government took the position, “[the ‘comfort woman’ system was established] by private corporations and the nation has no regard with it so that it is impossible to investigate the matters,” but this position was severely criticized by the Korean victims and others.  Then, the government carried out investigations, and in August of 1993, for the first time recognized its military’s involvement with the “comfort woman” issues and expressed a personal feeling of sorrow and remorse.  However, the government insisted that the issue of compensation for the victims has been already settled by the San Francisco Treaty as well as bilateral treaties and refused to provide compensation.

              Since the “comfort woman” issue was taken up at the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations in February of 1992, it has been discussed as a major issue at the World Human Rights Conference, World Women’s Conference and so forth.  Special Rapporteur Radhika Coomaraswamy, who was appointed by the Commission on Human Rights, investigated the matters in the concerned nations and submitted the special report to the commission.  In the report, she stated that “comfort women” were wartime sex slaves and advised that the Japanese government compensate the victims and disclose the pertinent information.

              The government responded to this report that the “comfort woman” issue had been already legally settled and took a stance to refuse to accept it as valid.  However, at the Commission on Human Rights in April of 1996, there was no nation that supported Japan on this issue and when the “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women” was adopted, the commission “took note” of this report.

              Following this “take note”, in April of 1998, at the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Special Rapporteur Gay J. McDougall rigorously pursued the “comfort woman” issue, examined the issue from a legal perspective, and demanded that the Japanese government provide the compensation.

              Furthermore, the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations of the International Labor Organization stated that the “comfort women “ are violations of International Labor Organization No. 29 Treaty, which prohibits forced labor, and expressed its desire that Japan provides compensation.

              However, the government claimed that the “comfort woman” issues should be resolved with the participation of the Japanese people, collected contributions, and in July of 1995 established “Asian Women’s Fund.”  By providing “atonement” money, the government tried to avoid its legal responsibility.  However, a number of the victims refused to accept this “atonement” money and the AWF has a difficulty even in satisfactorily explaining the situation to the contributors.

              In Japanese court now, there are eight cases in which the plaintiffs are former “comfort women.”  (Two Korean cases, one Korean-Living-in-Japan case, one Filipino case, one Dutch case, two Chinese cases, one Taiwanese case.  Four of these received lower court judgements.)  The first judgement was given at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Court, Shimonoseki Branch in April of 1998; and the judgement states the “comfort woman” system is most probably a violation of international laws of the time.  It wrote, “even in the mid-twentieth century standard of civilized nations, [the comfort woman system] was inhuman and extremely gruesome”; and it is a “fundamental human rights issue,” which is incompatible with the basic principle of the Japanese Constitution.  The judgement also pointed out that the government’s and Diet’s responsibility for their failure in enacting the necessary laws to resolve the issue and demanded the early enactment of the laws.  The ensuing judgements tend to recognize the facts about the “comfort woman” system although they do not admit the individual rights to claim.  Given the court’s recognition of the facts about the victims, the government of this once- oppressive nation must do something.

              Moreover, in many countries, the voices that demand the political resolution are becoming ever greater. The Korean government started to provide 3 million yen of monetary support per person to the victims who refuse to accept “the ‘atonement’ money” from the AWF and by using the diplomatic channel, announced, “Japan must reflect upon the inhuman crimes that its Imperial military has committed during World War II and it must apologize for what it did.”  In October of the same year, Korean Prime Minister Kim Dae-Jung visited Japan and said, “The Asian Women’s Fund alters the essence of the “comfort woman” issue,” “The ‘comfort woman’ issue is a Japanese government’s responsibility,” and “expects that this issue to be resolved in such a way that the whole world would be satisfied.”

              The Taiwanese government also started to provide the former “comfort woman” victims 2 million yen per person of the “substitution support” in December of 1997, before the AWF began to give out its fund, and has repeatedly demanded that the Japanese government apologize and compensate the victims.

              In March of the last year, the commission on civil, political and human rights in the lower house of the Filipino Legislature adopted the “Resolution supporting the international clamor for the Japanese Government to enact a post-war compensation law that would fulfill the demands of justice for the women victims of sexual slavery or ‘comfort women’ in world war.”   In August, the upper and lower house of the California Legislature adopted a proposal to demand a clear apology and reparations for the victims of war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese military, including “comfort woman” victims. Right now, in the Federal Legislature of the United States, a similar bill is proposed and some legislators expressed their hope for an early resolution of the issue.  In addition to these, on January 12 of this year, the Hong Kong Legislative Commission—equivalent to the national legislature—unanimously adopted a proposal to demand an official apology and reparations for the victims.

              On the “comfort woman” issue, since 1990, there have been a number of the Diet members who took the floor at plenary sessions as well as commissions; and in June of 1996, the bill “Concerning the Establishment of Commission for Investigation of Victims of Wartime Sexual Slavery” was submitted to the House of Councilors by the Diet members of different parties, but the bill did not pass due to the expiration of the legislative term. The Japanese government repeatedly insists, “The compensation issues have already been finally and completely settled at the San Francisco Peace Treaty” and has not taken any step to resolve the issues.  At the 26th general meeting of the Japan-Korea Politician Association in November of the last year, the joint statement for the early resolution of the “comfort woman” issues was announced.

              A number of victims of Japan’s aggression are still alive today.  For each one of them, it is obvious that the compensation issue has not been “finally and completely settled.”

              The preamble of the Japanese constitution states, “We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth” and shows the way that this nation should be going.  With the ideal of this constitution and considering the Japanese people to be Asians, I believe that the “comfort woman” issue needs to be resolved quickly, and with this hope, I submitted this bill. 

              Today, the AWF’s effort is stuck in the dead end and I think it is Japan’s responsibility to come up with other measures for the resolution.  This bill clarifies Japan’s stance that it desires to resolve the “comfort woman” issues and, by examining the basics of the issue, paves the road for the resolution.  For the concrete issues, it is necessary to discuss the matters with the pertinent nations, make decisions and carry out what has been decided.

              Now I would like to give you the outline of this bill.

First of all, in view of the fact that prior to and during World War II, with an involvement of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy, organized and prolonged coercion of sexual act was carried out against women, and because of such coercion, the dignity and honor of the women were severely violated and considering that it is the responsibility of the nation of Japan to take quick steps to restore the honor of the women, this act’s objectives lie in providing the necessary grounds for the resolution of the issues of “sexual slavery,” and by doing so, in improving the relationship between the Japanese and the concerned nationals, and in making it possible for Japan to occupy an honored place in an international society.

              The term “comfort woman” does not appropriately show the damage from which the victims are suffering.  Hence, in this bill, “victims of wartime sexual slavery” is used instead.

              Second, the government must singularly apologize for the violation of the honor and dignity of the victims of wartime sexual slavery and must implement necessary measures including monetary compensation for the restoration of their honor and dignity as soon as possible.

              Third, the government must lay down the fundamental policies on the measures to go forward with the resolution of the issues concerning the victims of wartime sexual slavery.  Furthermore, the government must acknowledge and report to the Diet any newly-stated fundamental policies or any change of the existing fundamental policies. 

              Fourth, in implementation of the measures in the “Second” paragraph, the government must discuss the matters with the governments and other institutions of the concerned nations, and with their understanding and cooperation, care for and pay close attention to the bearing that the measures would have with the international treaties that Japan has concluded.  And it must try to gain the recognition of and understanding for the measures from the Japanese people.  Moreover, in implementation of the measures in the “Second” paragraph, the government must respect the intention of the victims of wartime sexual slavery and pay close attention to their human rights.

              Fifth, the government must implement legal, budgetary and other kinds of measures for the resolution of the issues concerning the victims of wartime sexual slavery.

              Sixth, every year, the government must report to the Diet on the measures that it has implemented for the resolution of the issues concerning the victims of wartime sexual slavery and on the findings as results of the investigation, which would be outlined by the fundamental policies in the “Third” paragraph.  It also must publicly announce the summary of the report.

              Seventh, the Commission for Enhancement of Resolution for Issues concerning Victims of Wartime Sexual Slavery—the commission that discusses the details of the measures, coordinates with other institutions and do the administrative work necessary for the execution of the measures—will be established at the prime minister’s office as a special institution.

              This act will lose its power ten years after the date of enactment.  It must be enacted by the ordinance within a month after the proclamation of it.

              These are the reasons for the proposal and the summary of the contents.

              Please very carefully consider this bill and promptly support it.


(Tentative Translation by Senator Shoji Motooka Office, Mar. 2000 )