Comfort women were just 'wartime prostitutes', says Japanese delegation
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
A group of Japanese "patriots" are travelling to the United Nations in Geneva to demand that the UN Commission on Human Rights admits that comfort women were nothing more than prostitutes, and to insist that the organisation stops using the term "sex slaves".
The delegation, from Japanese Women for Justice and Peace and the Alliance for Truth About Comfort Women, plan to observe proceedings of the Committee of Civil and Political Rights over three days from Monday.
The group will also host a reception at the four-star Hotel Bristol to get their message across to delegates at the UN event.
"We are not nationalists, but patriots," Yumiko Yamamoto, president of Japanese Women for Justice and Peace, said in Tokyo yesterday. "We do not discriminate against other people, but we love Japan very much."
Yamamoto's organisation was set up to counter what it sees as racist and discriminatory depictions of the comfort women as being forced to serve as sex slaves by the Japanese military in the second world war, primarily by groups and the government in South Korea but also by China.
She suggested that if South Korea believed Japan had a case to answer it should take it to the International Court of Justice. China, she said, had only stepped into the argument in the last year and cannot take the moral high ground as it "is the world's worst violator of human rights".
"Comfort women were not sex slaves but wartime prostitutes who enjoyed spending time freely and who worked under contract in exchange for highly paid monetary reward for that time," Yamamoto said.
She dismissed a 1996 report on the issue by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN's special rapporteur on violence against women, on the grounds that it ignored US military documents that described the women as prostitutes and said it took unverified testimony by former comfort women as fact. The Coomaraswamy report recommended that Japan compensate and apologise to the women.
"The stories of so-called comfort women lack any substantial evidence and cause doubts about their truth," Yamamoto said.
"Based on these facts, it is right to conclude that the Coomaraswamy report no longer has any value."
Yamamoto said she did not deny that comfort women existed, but she claimed the propaganda that was being spread about the actions of the Japanese military in procuring the women was "ruining the dignity of Japan and threatening the security of Japanese ... in the US".
Citing a letter she received from a Japanese woman in Glendale, California, where a statue depicting a comfort woman was placed in a public park, Yamamoto said Japanese children were being bullied and a target of hatred because of the statue.
"It has no value at all and only serves to promote confusion and racism," she said.
"The UNCHR has received so many reports saying so many bad things related to comfort women and they have taken it all at face value," Yamamoto said. "International organisations are receiving the wrong information and this is spreading. Unless we do something now, we will never be able to clear Japan's name."