Colóquio Internacional TLSA-PT

Timor-Leste:A Ilha e o Mundo

7 a 11 de setembro 2020Colóquio Online

The Japanese military sexual slavery system: violence against women as a policy of military occupation

Akihisa Matsuno Osaka School of International Public Policy - Osaka University (OSIPP-Osaka University), JAPAN

The systematic nature of the Japan's wartime sexual slavery manifests in its wide distribution across the Asia-Pacific and state institutions' deep involvement in its planning and execution. In Portuguese Timor, which Japan occupied from February 1942 to August 1945, the Japanese military mobilized the whole population to construct military infrastructures, to produce foods for soldiers and to crash the resistance. To this end, the military used an existing traditional political structure. Mobilization of women for sexual slavery was a gender-specific part of these forced "war efforts". Under this policy, a numerous "comfort stations" were set up, sometimes with trees and leaves, while officers were allowed to have their own women in their temporary residences. Refusing to obey the summons or to hand over daughters, wives or village women meant severe punishment including death. After seventy-five years, the "comfort women" continues to be a controversy in Japan. Denialists say that "comfort stations" were commercially run and that women were not forced but volunteered. Against the backdrop of the controversy, previously unknown stories of the sexual slavery in Timor-Leste are receiving attention as they clearly show evidences of direct engagement of a Japan's state institution in this egregious act of violence. The presentation clarifies the purpose, the design and the reality of the policy based on written documents and testimonies.