The San Francisco Department on the Status of Women joins other organizations in condemnation of the May 13 assertion by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto that the system of sex slavery imposed by the Japanese military in Asia during World War II was “necessary” to provide relief to soldiers.
This statement is very damaging. To justify the exploitation and suffering experienced by the women, some just girls, who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II is a flagrant denial of basic human rights. Sex slavery is never “necessary.”
Here in San Francisco, we are a human rights city where a landmark 1998 Women’s Human Rights Ordinance recognizes the right of women to be free from violence. We are part of an international movement to eradicate gender-based violence. In March, Department staff led a delegation of women leaders from around the Sam Francisco Bay Area to participate in the UN Commission on the Status of Women meetings based on this year’s theme of addressing violence against women. Sexual violence as an instrument of war was a major discussion topic.
San Francisco’s commitment to fight violence against women is clear: just two months ago, Mayor Edwin Lee, District Attorney George Gascon, Susan Swan of V-Day, and Marily Mondejar of the Filipina Women’s Network, and President of the Commission on the Status of Women Julie Soo hosted over 2,000 participants at the One Billion Rising dance action to end violence against women at San Francisco Civic Center, part of Eve Ensler’s global campaign against gender-basedviolence, including many events in Japan.
San Francisco’s sister city relationship with Osaka, the third largest city in Japan, is the nation’s oldest, dating back to 1957 under then-Mayor George Christopher. A long line of San Francisco Mayors have invested in this important relationship. The recent statement by Mayor Hashimoto is counter to our values and it is our duty as a sister city to condemn his remarks. As a city, we continue our efforts to engage in people-to-people citizen diplomacy and to connect with non-governmental organizations in Osaka and San Francisco that are holding leaders accountable in the fight against gender violence.
I am joined by other leading organizations in the Japanese American community such as the US Japan Council that asserted, “Statements that are demeaning to women or that are historically inaccurate are inappropriate and harms the relationship between Japan and its allies.” In addition, the San Francisco – Osaka Sister City Association released the following, “Statements that justify controversial wartime abuses and devastating violence against women are damaging to international relations, and contrary to the mission of the Association.”
As the head of the Department on the Status of Women, and a board member of the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Association, I stand together with women’s groups in Japan and around the world to urge Mayor Hashimoto to take immediate steps to repair the damage resulting from his inflammatory statement, and to publicly recognize the tremendous human suffering and human rights violations of the wartime sex slavery system against women.
Emily M. Murase, PhD is executive director of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women.