Wartime military sexual enslavement in the Asia-Pacific
Asia-Pacific perspectives on international humanitarian law
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2020
This reflection on international humanitarian law (IHL) in the Asia-Pacific region centralises three of the darkest periods in the region’s history. The earliest, chronologically, is the situation of the girls and women from Japanese colonies and occupied territories who were forced to serve as ianfu or ‘comfort women’ to the Japanese military throughout the expanding empire of the 1930s and 1940s. Then, there were the girls and women who were sexually enslaved by the Pakistani Army and its auxiliaries during the struggle for liberation from which Bangladesh emerged in 1971. The final group comprises the girls and women who were sexually enslaved by the Indonesian military and its auxiliaries in East Timor over 1975–1999. Girls and women from socially conservative societies that prized female chastity were, in large numbers, forced to become sex slaves to professional militaries from Japan, Pakistan and Indonesia respectively. This sexual enslavement of females was directly associated with the armed conflict. It was carried out with both tacit and actual institutional support, sometimes pursuant to orders. Associated with, and part of this sexual enslavement, was a universe of depravity. These predatory crimes are not the only instances of extreme gender violence in the region, but they are emblematic. The accompanying analysis takes the discussion deeper, to a trans-disciplinary understanding of the causes of this practice, and from that to draw lessons for more effective prevention for the present. This discussion is rooted in a contemporary legal understanding, drawn from the conceptualisations used in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC Statute), and based on current IHL and international human rights law (IHRL). These were of course not applicable law when these events took place. A contemporary understanding is, however, essential in a study that seeks to use the past to inform the present and future.
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