Taiwan’s last ‘comfort woman’ passes away. All you need to know about Japan’s sordid past

Taiwan’s last ‘comfort woman’ passes away. All you need to know about Japan’s sordid past

Taiwan's last known "comfort woman" has passed away. According to a statement released by the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation (TWRF) on Monday (May 22), the Taiwanese woman who was coerced into becoming a "comfort woman" for the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II has passed away.

The woman, aged 92, died on the evening of May 10. 

As per a statement published by the organisation on its website, in consideration of her desire for privacy, TWRF withheld the announcement of her passing until after her funeral had taken place.

"Since grandma didn't want to be disturbed when she was alive, we waited for the farewell ceremony before releasing this news," they wrote. The original statement was written in traditional Chinese.

The group said that its members had maintained regular contact with the woman's family and often visited her home to engage in conversation or simply provide companionship. Taiwan News reports that despite her advanced age, the members of the organisation were deeply saddened by the news of her death.

Shortly before the farewell ceremony, social workers from TWRF paid their respects at the woman's mourning hall and extended condolences to her family. On the day of the funeral, TWRF Chair Theresa D. Yeh reportedly attended the ceremony.

TWRF expressed its commitment to ensuring that the "historical truth of the 'comfort women'/military sex slaves in Taiwan" is included in the country's educational curriculum, National History Museum, and history books. By doing so, they aim to prevent this history from fading away with the passing of these women. 

The foundation also pledged to continue its efforts towards educating the public about the harm inflicted upon women through sexual violence during World War II and to continue demanding an apology and compensation from the Japanese government for the victims and their family members.

Taiwan’s last ‘comfort woman’ passes away. All you need to know about Japan’s sordid past
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Who were comfort women?

As per the Association for Asian Studies, "comfort women refers to the system of sexual slavery created and controlled by the Imperial Japanese government between 1932 and 1945."

"It is the largest case of government-sponsored human trafficking and sexual slavery in modern history."

However, many experts contend that the Japanese military's euphemism "comfort women" obscures the gravity of the crime and the much more accurate term would be "military sexual slaves".

Why was this practice started?

As per history.com, "On December 13, 1937, Japanese troops began a six-week-long massacre that essentially destroyed the Chinese city of Nanking. Along the way, Japanese troops raped between 20,000 and 80,000 Chinese women."

These mass rapes horrified the world and concerned about Japan's image, Emperor Hirohito established military brothels or the so-called "comfort stations".

Where did these ‘comfort women’ come from?

During the initial phase, comfort stations were initially staffed by Japanese prostitutes who volunteered for the role. However, as the Japanese military expanded its operations in the late 1930s, it resorted to coercing women from the local populations in occupied territories like Korea, Taiwan, and China into providing sexual services at these stations.

How many women were put through this ordeal?

While the true numbers remain unknown, estimates suggest that hundreds of thousands of women, including girls as young as 12 years old were victimised.

These women were forced into prostitution "comforting" the tens of thousands of military men during World War II.

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