New Museum Opens in Tokyo on Sexual Slavery during War
Tuesday, August 2, 2005 Posted: 03:53 PM JST
Japan's first resource center on sexual slavery during WWII was opened in Tokyo yesterday. Women's Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) was established by public donations and aims to keep sexual violence against women from being ignored and forgotten. The center offers visual and textual materials, including testimonials by former "comfort women" for the Imperial Japanese Army. Some 200,000 women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese government during the Pacific War.
A large number of former sex slaves have gone to court to demand apologies and compensation from the Japanese Government. So far little success has been booked. Last February the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by seven former sex slaves from Taiwan after a lower court rejected their demands for an apology and damages.
The nonprofit organization that founded the museum, The Women's Fund for Peace and Human Rights, selected 2005 as the start of the center because it is exactly sixty years since the end of World War II. The timing is important. The past few years, especially the past few months, have seen a lot of controversy between Japan and its neighbors over history textbooks that ignore Japan's wartime atrocities. In June Japanese Minister of Education Nariaki Nakayama actually praised the removal from textbooks of references to comfort women.
The center was an idea of Yayori Matsui, a journalist and women's rights activist who passed away in December 2002. Matsui also organized the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal in Tokyo in December 2000. The Tribunal called the comfort-women system "a crime against humanity". It said that the Japanese government should take legal responsibility. The Japanese government has reportedly tried to silence news about the tribunal.
In the Summer of 2002 Matsui collapsed during research in Afghanistan. She learned that she had fatal liver cancer and only a few more months to live. The idea of "Women's Museum for War and Peace" flashed into her mind as she was struggling with the pain, and the shock of her imminent death.
"To protect the human rights of women, exterminate violence and build peace," wrote Matsui in her last will, "it is an urgent task to record and remember the facts of women's suffering during wartime and offenses carried out by military forces in the 20th century. We must hand this knowledge down to future generations and put it to practical use for peace building."
WAM has comprehensive information on violence against women in war situations in past and present, and aims to become a women's network hub for making peace in the world.
Women's Active Museum on War and Peace
Onnatachi no Senso to Heiwa Shiryokan
Rumiko Nishino, chief of the institution
Phone: (+82) 03-3202-4633
- Sites about Comfort Women (Ianfu) at Japan Links
- Sites about the textbook controversy at Japan Links
- Sites of Japanese Human Rights Advocacy Organizations at Japan Links
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