THE COMFORT WOMEN: Japan's Brutal Regime of Enforced Prostitution in the Second World War by George Hicks

THE COMFORT WOMEN: Japan's Brutal Regime of Enforced Prostitution in the Second World War

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A groundbreaking account of one of the least examined atrocities of WW II. Drawing on women's and soldiers' personal accounts, official records, and the work of a handful of other researchers, Hicks describes the forced prostitution of some 100,000 women. All over Asia, from Korea to Indonesia and elsewhere, women (usually from lower castes or classes) were kidnapped, raped, and then forced to service soldiers who were often deranged--both from combat and from the Japanese army's sadistic and authoritarian discipline. Though the military required that women receive regular medical examinations and that all clients wear condoms, disease in the brothels was rampant; many women were left infertile or physically unable to enjoy sex for the rest of their lives. Many others were so psychologically traumatized that they were unable to have normal relationships or even to support themselves financially. Though according to Hicks more than 2.5 million Japanese soldiers must have known about this practice, only recently--thanks to the rise of feminism in Asia and the concurrent efforts of scholars, activists, and survivors--has it become an acceptable topic of public discussion, and only in the past few years has the Japanese government begun to acknowledge any responsibility for the women's suffering. Many survivors are now demanding compensation from Japan. Their personal stories are well chosen, often graphic, and deeply disturbing. Hicks balances the horror stories with examples of resistance; a group of Australian nurses in Sumatra, for instance, refused outright to have sex with the men and were released. Some women escaped or made life in the brothels more bearable by striking up friendships or romances with favored soldiers. Painful and scrupulously researched.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 260pp
Publisher: Norton