What’s in An Apology?
Saying sorry, what does it mean to you?
Canadians, and Filipinos too, often get teased for over-using sorry. The epitome of this for myself is whenever someone bumps me in the subway or on the street, and I say sorry… to them… for running into me! The habit is aggravating as it devalues the word. For thousands of women in the Philippines, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia, saying “sorry” is the reason why they shout and march to demand an apology, an apology from the Japanese government, for being forced to be “Comfort Women” for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Piece on Comfort Women by CBS News:
As the Imperial Army of Japan invaded and occupied vast regions of East and SouthEast Asia during World War II, an estimated 200,000 women were seized and enslaved to provide sexual services for the Japanese soldiers. Known as “Comfort Women”, these women intentionally seized because the government wanted to avoid the excessive rapes and brutality committed by Japanese soldiers in Shanghai and Nanjing in 1932. It is alleged that the Comfort Women system had an effect in reducing the number of reported rapes. Regardless of whether this were true or not, the ends do not justify the means. Thousands of Asian women, now surviving grandmothers, including approximately 100 of our Filipina Lolas, faced multiple rapes in a day, gang rapes, abuse, isolation, and family separation.
The stories of their experiences have often fallen on deaf ears. Protesting and marching of the survivors and their supporters faces resistance. The Japanese government has apologized for the system, but has refused to pay for reparations to these women. The apology however, has been critiqued for its sincerity. Last year the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that there was no proof that the women were coerced. This has renewed protests for an apology that recognizes coercion, and answers the demands for some compensation to the victims of the Comfort Women system.
In Canada, the New Democratic Party’s Olivia Chow (MP of Trinity-Spadina) has urged for the Canadian government to pressure Japan to acknowledge this atrocity, but here as in the rest of Asia, politicians rather avoid rocking the boat than challenging the integrity of Japan, no matter how historically censored that integrity is based upon.
“Olivia Chow on Comfort Women”
With the generation of these victims now fading as many pass away, some in the Filipino community have turned to the Arts as the best way to raise awareness, express these forgotten experiences, and to preserve the history of Filipinas and of Asian women.
See “Lola Masing Musical”:
For these women, a meaningful apologize from the Japanese government could begin their process of healing and closure. As Filipinos, expressing our history – both happy and bleak – serves to enrich our community and sustain our future.
For Further Reading/Watching:
LILA Pilipinas, however, and similar organizations have emerged to give voice to the Comfort Women survivors: