I was a young woman when Lola Rosa Henson came out in 1992 as a victim of sexual slavery by Japanese military soldiers during the Second World War. A few months later, lawyers from Japan came to gather information from other elderly women who are coming out, to file a case against the Japanese government. I helped translate the stories of the grandmothers as the Japanese lawyers interviewed them.
They narrated that many of them were from 12 to 16 years of age when they were forcibly taken from their communities to the soldiers’ barracks. On the very same day that they were abducted, 10-15 soldiers lined up to use each of them sexually. And they suffered the same ordeal in the countless days hence.
When they were coming out in the media during the early 90’s, they told us of how some of their families rejected them, reflecting public stigma on victims of sexual violence.
It has been almost two decades since they came out and the “Lola’s” have yet to see justice. On Nov. 23, it will be 66 years since the Japanese soldiers ransacked their homes in Mapanique and brought them in a “red house” to be used as “comfort women.”
More recently, the Supreme Court denied the Filipino women’s demands for the Philippine government to espouse their claims for reparation from the Japanese government. Worse, in so doing, the Supreme Court misused the works of international legal scholars and went further as to threaten the University of the Philippines (UP) Faculty of Law with sanctions for exposing such misuse. It makes us feminists indignant as the highest court of our land harasses the UP law professors, who were only voicing the truth in behalf of the women victims of sexual slavery. The Supreme Court is showing its patriarchal face by denying justice to the victims of sexual slavery, getting away with plagiarism in the guise of ‘lack of malicious intent’, and as dissenting Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales asserted, “flexing (its) judicial muscle” against the law professors.
I enjoin the academic community to protest this grievous misconduct, setting a dangerous precedent of intellectual dishonesty. I call on other women’s groups to rally behind truth, reason and justice as argued by the UP Faculty of Law. Finally, I call on our executive and legislative branches of government to take up where our Supreme Court failed, securing justice for the women victims of sexual slavery. President Noynoy Aquino is due to leave for Japan to attend the 18th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. We will expect him to take the plea of the comfort women definitively with his Japanese counterparts.
Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
National Coordinator, World March of Women