During World War II, the Japanese established military brothels in countries they occupied. It's still disputed today how many were sexual slaves and how many were simply recruited as prostitutes. Today estimations still range from a couple of thousands to more than 400.000 . Many of the surviving 'comfort women' charge that they were forced to 'serve' and, as if their job was not hard enough, were treated badly in the military recreation centers, often sustaining permanent health damage.
A number of former Japan State Slaves have filed lawsuits against the Japanese government, and have raised the issue with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Japanese government initially claimed no military responsibility for the centers until papers were discovered in the early 90's (Shit!) showing direct links. Despite the re-appearance of some documents the Japanes government still maintained that recruitment tactics by 'middlemen' were not the responsibility of the military command unites - no responsibilitis, no official appologies! Some women have been offered unofficial apologies and financial awards but many have refused until the government of Japan takes full responsibility.
After some serious government studies (like if there had been no such thing before) into the case, Yohei Kono, the Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Japanese government, issued a statement on the 4th of August 1993. In this statement, the Japanese government recognized that 'Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military of the day' and that 'The Japanese military was directly or indirectly involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of the women'. He also noted that '[the] recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will through coaxing and coercion'. The government of Japan 'sincerely apologize[d] and [expressed its] remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable psychological wounds'. In the statement, the government of Japan expressed its 'firm determination never to repeat the same mistake and that they would engrave such issue through the study and teaching of history'.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission sees it slightly differently in 1998:
On June 22nd, 1998, Gay J. McDougall, Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, released Contemporary Forms of Slavery,a report based on prior UN investigation by Linda Chavez documenting systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices in wartime in general. The report detailed the official Japanese government stance as well as the UN's own legal position concluding the following:
- The system of comfort women used by the Japanese government during World War II falls under the international definition of slavery at the time, and slavery (sexual or otherwise) was illegal at the time. The 1926 Slavery Convention embodies one such definition. International prohibition of slavery was included in the Tokyo Charter which was used to make the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.
- Rape (including forced or coerced prostitution) was a war crime at the time; regardless of whether prostitution was widespread during World War II.
- Enslavement and other inhumane acts committed by the Japanese government can be considered “crimes against humanity.” In crimes against humanity, the nationality of the victim is irrelevant thus, (it doesn’t matter if the Japanese government was committing crimes against its enemies’ citizens or its own) it is liable for these offenses.
- The Japanese government is liable for crimes against humanity because of the considerable scale on which these crimes were committed.
- Arguments that the enslaving and raping of comfort women was perfectly legal at the time is similar to an argument that was used and refuted at the Nuremberg Trials.
And no one lived happily ever after...