U.S. lawmaker wants probe of postwar brothels
WASHINGTON (AP) A U.S. lawmaker said Thursday he wants a closer look at reports that American authorities allowed the operation of an official brothel system for soldiers occupying Japan in the aftermath of World War II.
Democratic Rep. Mike Honda, sponsor of a resolution urging Japan to apologize formally for coercing thousands of women across Asia into sexual slavery during the war, said he has asked the Congressional Research Service to look into allegations that Japanese officials set up brothels for U.S. soldiers right after Japan's surrender.
Honda rejected comparisons between the actions of the Japanese during the war and the Occupation forces. He said the Japanese "comfort women" system was set up and sanctioned by the Japanese government and military.
"It's different," he said. "This is the military of the Imperial government, the Imperial military's policy, in capturing, coercing and kidnapping girls and women for the purpose of sexual slavery."
Honda said it was important learn the U.S. military's role in the postwar system.
An AP review of historical documents and records shows U.S. authorities permitted an official brothel system to operate despite internal reports that women were being coerced into prostitution.
Tens of thousands of women were employed to provide cheap sex to American troops until the spring of 1946, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur shut down the system, documents show. There is no clear evidence that non-Japanese comfort women were imported to Japan as part of the program.
The Associated Press
Social stigma is preventing thousands of Japanese women who served Occupation forces in official brothels from coming forward to seek compensation, according to a women's rights activist.
"It is difficult for these women to come forward because of the social stigma attached to serving U.S. soldiers," said Mitsuko Nobukawa, an activist with the Tokyo-based Violence against Women in War Network.
"There were thousands of women who served in Japanese brothels around Asia during the war, too, but they suffered in silence and few have talked about their experiences," Nobukawa said.
Historians say that up to 200,000 women, mainly from China and Korea, provided sex for Japanese troops in military brothels during the war, and many were forced into sexual slavery.
Of these "comfort women," at least 10 percent were Japanese, according to historians' estimates.