Women’s groups and other parties in Okinawa Prefecture on Wednesday protested Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s contentious remarks about the wartime sex slaves, with some calling for his immediate resignation.
The outspoken mayor’s remarks came during a visit to Okinawa on Monday, where he also told reporters U.S military personnel stationed there should make more active use of the local sex industry so they can ease their sexual frustration in a legal manner.
He said the Japanese military’s wartime recruitment of Asian females to provide sex in frontline brothels was a necessary evil in order to “maintain discipline.”
The Okinawa arm of the National Federation of Regional Women’s Organizations and other women’s groups in and out of the prefecture jointly issued a statement condemning Hashimoto’s remarks as “an affront to dignity of all human beings regardless of sex” and a “justification of blatant discrimination.”
“People have justified rape as being caused by (men’s) inability to control their sexual urge, which we know is a lie,” the statement said, adding it is also a lie that “women who work in the sex industry have accepted their role as an outlet for sexual frustration.”
Similarly exasperated, Hiromi Hirayasu, secretary general of the women’s division in the Okinawa chapter of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), questioned Hashimoto’s suitability as coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and called for his immediate resignation.
“I believe his remark aroused hostility not only in women in Okinawa, but those all over the world,” she told The Japan Times.
Pointing out Japan has been traditionally behind global standards in gender equality, Hirayasu voiced concern that Hashimoto’s statements might be taken by the international community as emblematic of the nation.
“What he said is absolutely unforgivable. We should all stand up to declaim against it,” she said.
Yonekichi Shinzato, head of the Social Democratic Party’s chapter in Okinawa, released a statement saying Hashimoto’s comments indicate “his lack of historical understanding and respect for the issue of human rights,” and demanded he retract them.
“All women have human rights and their dignity should be respected as human beings,” Shinzato said of Hashimoto’s remarks about present-day sex workers.
As for the wartime “comfort women,” Shinzato said Hashimoto’s comments “showed no consideration and apologies at all for the Asian women who were deprived of their human rights and dignity.”