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Forced Prostitution During World War II

I recently read an article posted on Yahoo News about prostitution during World War II in Japan.  Prostitution is a difficult and controversial subject for feminists, but what most can agree on is that forced prostitution is a horror equivalent to slavery that needs to be stopped.  However, the mayor of Osaka, Japan, Toru Hashimoto disagrees.  When reflecting on the horrors of World War II, Hashimoto publicly claimed that the Japanese military’s forced prostitution of Asian women was crucial in order for the army to “maintain discipline” and provide a release for soldiers risking their lives in battle.

During World War II, Hashimoto’s opinion on forced prostitution was probably shared by the majority of military officials and soldiers who were serving, but that obviously doesn't make it right, and his comment on such an atrocity is insensitive and cruel.  Historians believe that up to 200,000 women primarily from the Korean peninsula and China were forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers.  This is a harrowing statistic that should be treated with the same respect and regret that the other war tragedies of World War II rightfully receive.  This is another war tragedy that should not be forgotten and certainly should not be regarded as insignificant or necessary.

Hashimoto still encourages prostitution for currently employed soldiers. He recently urged the U.S. commander stationed in Japan to utilize the local sex industry. Although sexuality is an important aspect of the human psyche and human health, prostitution, or forced sex, is a very complex and different issue. Sexual slavery is still a global issue, but what about legal prostitution?  If prostitution is a choice, does it devalue women or liberate them?  Is prostitution a good option for those willing to take part in it or is it an institution of oppression that should never be acceptable?  Voluntary prostitution is also very difficult to determine: did the woman become a prostitute because she would have starved without an income?  Is the woman a drug addict who gets her supply from local pimps?  These questions are all very controversial, difficult to answer and complicate the issue. However, I think it is insulting and outrageous for a modern day political figure to condone forced prostitution.



More articles by Category: Feminism, International, Politics, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Trafficking, Women's history, Asia, Sexualized violence
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Chloe Hallinan
WMC Fbomb Editorial Board Member
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