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New thesis on so-called comfort women, systematic prostitution within the Japanese empire

September 19th, 2022 Anders Runesson
Comfort women is the term used for the systematic sexual exploitation of women and girls that took place under the Japanese Empire 1932–1945. It has been estimated that the system comprised anything from 20 000 to 400 000 women at some 2 000 different "comfort stations" and this is described today as either slavery or prostitution.

80 years later, the women who were sexually exploited by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II are still waiting for legal recognition. Anna-Karin Eriksson describes the issue as being stuck in a deadlock. In her dissertation, she points out how important it is to view historical events from a larger perspective—also current events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The system with comfort women for the Imperial Japanese Army came into being due to three main reasons, says Anna-Karin Eriksson who recently defended her doctoral thesis on this topic within the subject of political science at Linnaeus University.

"They wanted to reduce the number of rapes that took place where the Japanese Empire advanced. They also wanted to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, by controlling the women. It was also seen as a sort of relaxation after warfare, as recreation."

Awaits rectification

Despite the fact that close to 80 years have passed since the end of World War II, the comfort women who are still alive are still waiting for rectification for their suffering in the form of legal recognition.

The primary reason that this has not happened, according to Eriksson, is that the transformation that the occupying power enforced on Japan, which transformed the empire into a nation state, is spurring anti-feminist backlash that occurs at the survivors' expense.

"In order to be able to implement this and have the support of the people, the emperor was kept in place, even though he had the ultimate formal responsibility for the war. The emperor became sort of a victim of the war machinery as well as the person who was to unite the nation. Thus, what was done was to relieve the new nation state of responsibility for the war and say 'you are all victims'. In this way, it became impossible to point out individual victims who suffered more than others", Eriksson explains.

Read more

More information:
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-115764
ISBN: 9789189709249 (print)
ISBN: 9789189709256 (electronic)
DiVA, id: diva2:1687528
Anna-Karin Eriksson, doctoral student, +46 73-718 95 55,
Ulrika Bergström, Senior Press Officer, +46 70-259 36 29,

Provided by Linnaeus University

Citation: New thesis on so-called comfort women, systematic prostitution within the Japanese empire (2022, September 19) retrieved 26 November 2022 from
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