A United Nations committee on May 21 called on Japan to prevent hate speech and other actions that degrade former “comfort women” and portray them as prostitutes for Japanese troops in World War II.
The recommendation of the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was based on discussions held before Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto sparked outrage on May 13 by saying the comfort women system was “necessary” in wartime.
The document released by the committee was directed more at the lack of understanding in Japanese society about the issue of Korean and other women forced to provide sex for Imperial Japanese Army soldiers before and during World War II.
“The committee is concerned about the lasting negative effects of the exploitation to which ‘comfort women’ were subjected on their enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and their entitlement to reparation,” the document said.
“The committee recommends that the state party take all necessary measures to address the lasting effects ... . The committee also recommends that the state party educate the public on the exploitation of ‘comfort women’ so as to prevent hate speech and other manifestations that stigmatize them.”
Apart from the comfort women issue, the U.N. committee also encouraged Japan to adopt “comprehensive legislation” to ban all forms of discrimination.
The document said the exclusion of pro-Pyongyang Korean schools from the Japanese government’s tuition-waiver program for senior high school education “constitutes discrimination” and called on Japan to rectify the situation.
The U.N. committee regularly works out “observations” on the status of human rights in signatory states to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The observations and recommendations presented in the document are not legally binding, but Japan, a signatory state to the U.N. convention, has the duty to respect them in good faith.
The document was published following interviews in late April with Japanese government officials and representatives of nongovernmental organizations.
Sources said at least one NGO told a session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that CDs containing a song by a Japanese band were sent to former comfort women in South Korea.
According to the sources, the lyrics included, "Kill the old whores, chop the Chons."
“Chon” is a Japanese racial slur for Koreans.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently criticized the hate speech in protest rallies in Tokyo and Osaka where slogans like “Kill Koreans” are chanted. But these demonstrations and other expressions of an extremely discriminatory nature are allowed to continue in Japan.
While the U.N. committee did not directly denounce remarks by Japanese politicians, some of them have shown a complete lack of sensitivity to the comfort women issue.
Four days after Hashimoto’s comfort women remark, Shingo Nishimura, a Lower House member of the opposition Japan Restoration Party, fueled the controversy by saying: “South Korean prostitutes are still everywhere (in Japan). Why not tell them, 'Hey, you Korean comfort women!’”
Nishimura was ousted from the party over those remarks. Hashimoto is co-leader of the party.
(This article was compiled from reports by Hiroyuki Maegawa in Geneva and Hideaki Ishibashi in Tokyo.)
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