U.S. Rep. Mike Honda of California recently introduced to Congress a resolution calling on the government of Japan to apologize for its implementation of a system of sexual slavery before and during World War II. Although Honda’s intentions are noble, the resolution manifests several misconceptions.

sk,1 Honda correctly notes that the “comfort women” have still not received justice from the Japanese government, but the United States shares much of the blame for this. After the war, the U.S. failed to bring Japanese military officials to justice for their involvement in the sexual enslavement of Korean, Chinese and other Asian women, even though U.S. military officers were well aware of the issue as early as February 1945. The only cases that went to trial after the war involved women who were natives of Guam and a handful of Dutch women in Indonesia. Hence, the U.S. deemed the Japanese sexual enslavement of women as a crime against humanity only when it involved women living in a U.S. territory or Caucasians.

And the U.S. is not without its own history of engaging in forced prostitution. In the early months of the Occupation, Japanese leaders established an organization known as the Recreation and Amusement Association. Women were rounded up for the RAA from among the most destitute of the Japanese population and frequently serviced more than 20 men a day.

Often these women were referred to as the “female floodwalls,” since they were seen as providing protection for the more “respectable” women against rape by U.S. soldiers. Much like the Japanese, U.S. military officials rationalized this system by arguing that the men needed sexual release and that the women had chosen to be prostitutes. The RAA was disbanded in March 1946 when widespread venereal disease threatened the effectiveness of the troops and the U.S. press got wind of it.

daniel j. carolin

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