I rise today to speak about one of the great injustices, one of the most flagrant violations of human rights.
During World War Two, the Japanese military forced hundreds of thousands of women to serve as sexual slaves. Euphemistically known as `comfort women' , they were predominantly Korean women and girls abducted from their homes and forced to serve Japanese soldiers. This government-sanctioned program created untold numbers of comfort stations or military brothels throughout Japanese-occupied territories in the Pacific Rim.
For decades after the war, the Japanese government denied the existence of `comfort women' and the comfort stations, but in 1994, their position changed. The Japanese government admitted that `the then Japanese military was directly or indirectly involved in the establishment and management of comfort stations and the transfer of `comfort women [and] that this was an act that severely injured the honour and dignity of many women' .
In 1993, international jurists in Geneva, Switzerland ruled that women who were forced to be sexual slaves of the Japanese military deserve at least $40,000 each from the state treasury as compensation for their extreme pain and suffering.
Mr. Speaker, the Japanese government has a legal as well as moral responsibility to face its history. To continue to indignantly brush away these women's claims adds insult to injury.
Stripped of their dignity, robbed of their honor, most of them were forced to live their lives carrying those horrific experiences with them covered under a veil of shame. I don't think they should do so any longer.
I believe the Japanese government must do whatever can be done to restore some dignity for these women .
The German government has formally apologized to the victims of the Holocaust as well as other war crimes victims and has gone to great lengths to provide for their needs and recovery, but the Japanese government has yet to do so.
That is why, in the strongest possible terms, I call upon Japan to formally issue a clear and unambiguous apology for the atrocious war crimes committed by the Japanese military during World War II and offer reparations no less than $40,000 for each of the `comfort women' . The surviving women are advanced in age, and time is of the essence. They have waited so long. They should wait no longer.
Critics may ask why we should even dredge up something that happened so long ago and halfway across the world?
Let me turn the critics' attention to the U.S. Constitution. It reads: `We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights . . .'
Mr. Speaker, this nation was an experiment. An experiment to form a new system of government. A government based on the then-radical concept that we all have certain God-given rights that should not be violated--each and every one of us in this world. It matters not that injustices were committed against women and girls in East Asia over fifty years ago or fifty minutes ago. There is no statute of limitation on crimes against humanity. When human rights are violated, the international community must act because we have a moral responsibility to do so.
Even today, we sometimes turn a blind eye to human rights. We sometimes take them for granted. We sometimes stay silent. But we shouldn't.
Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote: `the laws of humanity make it a duty for nations, as well as individuals, to help those whom accident and distress have thrown upon them.'
Mr. Speaker, I strongly believe we have a duty. We have a duty to help those who need our help. We have a duty to stand up for those who cannot stand up on their own. We have a duty to speak up for those who have no voices and to do what is just and what is right.
So, let us do what is just and what is right for the `comfort women' and other victims. Let us speak out for them. Let us stand up for them. Let us lend them our strength.
We must act and we must speak out, because in the end, people will remember not the words of their enemies, but the silence of their friends.
We must not remain silent.