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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011

Japan's Filipino wartime sex slaves tell their story in documentary


By KEIJI HIRANO
Kyodo

The director of a recently completed documentary on Filipino victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery says the memories of the aging women now won't be lost to posterity.

News photo
Speaking out: Virginia Vielaruma, 80, a former sex slave of Japanese forces occupying the Philippines during the war, demonstrates with other victims in Manila on Aug. 11. She appears in the documentary "Katarungan! Justice for Lolas!" COURTESY OF CHIEKO TAKEMI/KYODO

"Many of them became victims of sexual violence by Japanese soldiers at the ages of 14 or 15, and they are around 80 years old now," said Chieko Takemi. "I wanted to record the lives of those who have survived decades of hardships."

In "Katarungan! Justice for Lolas!" people in Manila as well as Luzon and Leyte islands testified how barbaric Japanese soldiers sexually targeted local women and mistreated the community at large, suspecting they were involved in the resistance movement.

"Katarungan" means justice and "lola" means grandmother in Tagalog.

Among the victims, Pilar Galan, 80, said in the film, "My father and brothers were killed by Japanese soldiers and I was raped by them. I hope people will know this."

Meanwhile, Simeona Ramil, 84, said, "People came to avoid me as I was considered 'worn out' by Japanese soldiers. I just shut myself up in my room and cried."

Maria Kilantan, 80, said, "I expect the Japanese government to provide us with official compensation (to achieve) justice."

Takemi, a freelance journalist covering environmental and development issues in the Philippines, decided to shoot the film in the face of persistent claims in Japan that the issue of wartime "comfort women" was bogus and that those who say they were victims are just after money.

"The lolas have suffered prejudice, but they have been aware that it is meaningful for them to survive their hardships so they can start their lives over," Takemi said.

The sexual slavery in the Philippines came to light in 1992 when, in response to calls by a local women's group, a victim revealed she had been raped by three Japanese soldiers at age 14 and was kept at a "comfort station" for nine months. About 400 women have followed her in revealing their experiences.

The film also presents the voice of a former Japanese soldier who was stationed in the Philippines and looked at how Japan's college students see the issue of sexual slavery.

The war veteran says in an interview that soldiers, believing they could die at any time, had sought out women, while a male college student said at a workshop on the issue, "I might have done the same thing if I had been put in the same situation (as the soldiers)."

A female student said, "I thought a comfort woman was just like a relief worker."

In a bid to correctly inform the public about wartime sexual violence in the Philippines, an exhibition focusing on it is under way at the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace, known as WAM, in Tokyo through June 2012.



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