comfort girls

Dubois, Mary Elizabeth

At the onset of World War II, the encompassing social role of women in society at large influenced what would ultimately be explained later as a female prostitution service, more commonly known in Japan as the facility of “comfort women.” The Imperial Japanese Army instigated this enforcement of women into sexual slavery during and before World War II. There is obscurity in determining just how many women were involved, though the women were occupied from diverse countries including Korea, China, Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, New Guinea, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and Australia. According to historians, young women were abducted from their homes and forced into the custody of Imperial Japan.

The ideology that made such a prostitution service possible correlates directly to social role of women in Japan at the time. There was open conversation about prostitution, as well as a regimented system that ordered prostitution in Japan, indicating the role of women at large was automatically more subservient to men. Because of this ideology, it was only logical that there should be a systemized way of obtaining prostitutes for the Japanese Armed Forces during the war. The army established comfort stations that, at first, provided women who had volunteered for the service. Eventually, however, the army found themselves short of volunteers, and resorted to coercing female factory workers or nurses into involuntary sexual slavery.

The logic behind such comfort women wasn’t specifically just on terms of providing prostitutes in the conventional way. The army was concerned that if men were left to their own devices and own company, the already building discontent would instigate riot or revolt. By providing women, the army hoped to dispel such aggravation, and, thus, create a political unity within the army itself.

The fact that such detailed and illegal means were taken to coerce women into sexual slavery reveals a lot about the social role of women in Japan. Women were considered lesser beings, perhaps, but they were also seen as a means to comfort and dispel potential political aggravation in the army. The army was using these women to appease their soldiers and to promote their own political agendas in the war. Women were serving a serious social role: hold the army together and help achieve political unity.

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