Japan’s Surviving Comfort Women Will Receive Reparations

Korean comfort women (Japan Daily Press)

Korean comfort women (Japan Daily Press)

On Dec. 28, the heads of Japan and South Korea came to an agreement over making reparations for the remaining comfort women.

For those who are unfamiliar, comfort women were Korean women who served Japan’s Imperial Army before and during World War II…as sex slaves. This happened during Japan’s colonial rule over South Korea, which lasted from 1910 to 1945, and contributed to strained relations that continue to this day.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many comfort women existed, since accurate records weren’t kept. Most estimates put it at a range around 100K to 200K. Women began coming forward about their experiences in the early 1990s.

Of the 238 women who’ve come forward in South Korea, only 46 survive.

Obviously, this is a huge abuse of women (not to mention that of human rights), so it’s good that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se are trying to make it right 70 years later.

In addition to a formal apology, Japan will provide $8.3M-worth of reparations. However, the money won’t go directly to the survivors; it’ll be used by South Korea to establish healthcare for the women.

These reparations are significant because it’s the first time the Japanese government will provide the money. In 1993, Japan set up donations provided by private donors, but it wasn’t fully accepted by South Korea. At that time, 60 South Korean women received aid from the donations.

It’ll be interesting to see how these reparations make a difference for the women, and how the action changes Japan and South Korea’s relationship.


How Common Is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the U.S.?

Girls (The Borgen Project)

Girls (The Borgen Project)

Generally, when people the phrase “female gentile mutilation,” they think of countries where that’s a common practice. Well, actually, many people tend to think of just one continent: Africa. It’s implied that since Africa is less developed and empowered, people don’t think it can happen in the U.S.

Well, it does. And significantly. FGM has been coming to light recently here in the U.S. For a quick primer: Forms of FGM include removing the clitoris to completely sewing the vagina lips shut, done for non-medical purposes. The procedure is usually done without anesthesia, and leaves victims with severe repercussions, especially with the reproductive system. The main goal is to ensure the victim’s virginity and sexual loyalty to her partner.

The Population Reference Bureau studied the rate of FGM in the U.S., and published results earlier this year. It’s estimated that 507K+ women have either had the procedure done, or are at-risk of having it. (The results gave no way to break down the number further into those who definitively have had it done.) Some commonalities have been found about those at risk:

The estimated number of girls at risk is based on the number of daughters of immigrants from countries, mostly in Africa and from some communities in Asia, living in the U.S.

Over 166K women at risk are under the age of 18.

Prior to these results, a study was performed in 2000. Fifteen years ago, it was estimated 227K+ women were at risk for FGM. (It’s unclear as to whether the number included women who’d had the procedure done.)

Performing FGM in the U.S. was made illegal in 1996, and the practice of sending a girl to another country for the procedure (termed “vacation cutting”) was made illegal in 2013. It’s clear there are not enough protections in place to stop this barbaric practice, so I hope strides will be made in the right direction.