Sunday, March 8, 2009

International Women's Day 2009

Today is International Women's Day.

It is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. But since I have a pretty dim view of the world of men, I am pretty much a glass-half-empty person on how much women have achieved. Our voices are still in the Wilderness and we still have to acquire power the old fashioned way. Hillary still had to hook up with Bill, Condi had to play nanny to George, and Koike has to sleep with Koizumi. Yikes!

As a veteran of Japan's "history wars," I also see all the irony in Japan's commemoration of this day of "achievement." One of today's must public issues affecting women is sexual violence in conflict. Imperial Japan's state-sponsorship of sexual violence and sexual slavery through its Comfort Women system remains a contentious history issue in Asia. Contemporary Japan's partial apologies mixed with archaic views on rape continue to damage the country's credibility on human rights.

Over at the UN Action website for Stop Violence Against Women in Conflict they note the day with a special page of commentary on how rape in conflict is among the most brutal crimes against humanity.

The UN Population Fund's Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid writes:
Whether it is human trafficking, domestic violence, crimes committed in the name of honour or passion, child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, or sexual violence, which in many conflict situations has reached alarming proportions, violence against women and girls constitutes a shameful crime that is too often shrouded in silence and too seldom punished.

Violence against women and girls is not a women’s issue—it is an issue that concerns and diminishes us all. No custom, tradition or religion can justify cruel and degrading treatment.
During the Comfort Women debate over a US House of Representatives nonbinding resolution asking Japan for an unequivocal and public apology to the Comfort Women, too many Japan managers asked why was Japan being singled out. Why was a long-ago issue being dragged into the US Congress? Why should anyone care about these prostitutes? they asked.

It was as if they knew nothing about what was happening outside of the comfortable confabs of US-Japan dialogue. They think they are talking about security. They want to create a security community. Maybe if they turned on CNN and watched what was happening in the Congo, Dafur, Burma, Bosnia, Rwanda...or even read what Voice of America transmits. Or went to the UN Action website that is so eloquently called

Or they might want to contemplate the video below. It is supposed to be a message about harassment and rape. I found it extremely uncomfortable to watch. And I found its graphic message even more difficult to understand. The video suggests that girls will entice the weak, innocent male to pursue sex. Schoolgirls are just harlots who need better discipline. These are the same arguments used to create and to defend the Comfort Women system. To me, it is disturbing at best.

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