UN group urges Tokyo to curb hate speech

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UN group urges Tokyo to curb hate speech

A United Nations human rights committee joined the international community in censuring Japan, warning Tokyo to curb its hate speech against so-called “comfort women,” or Asian women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Cescr) recommended the Japanese government better educate Japanese society on the plight of women forced into sexual slavery to prevent stigmatization and to take necessary measures to repair lasting effects of the exploitation, including addressing their right to compensation.

In a report released on Tuesday in Geneva, the committee said Japan should “educate the public on the exploitation of ‘comfort women’ so as to prevent hate speech and other manifestations that stigmatize them.”

It also urged Japan to “address the lasting negative effects” of the exploitation the comfort women were subjected to in regards to “their enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and their entitlement to reparation.”

The committee also encouraged Japan to take legal measures to ban all forms of discrimination, citing as an example the exclusion of pro-Pyongyang Korean schools from the Japanese government’s tuition-waiver program.

But the Japanese government yesterday responded that the issue of comfort women was not an issue within the scope of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to deliberate over.

China and Korea are currently members of the committee, established in 1985 and comprised of 18 experts that serve four-year terms. They hold sessions twice annually in Geneva.

While a UN request is not legally binding, Japan, by the UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, is obligated to comply with the request.

The Asahi Shimbun reported Tuesday that sources said a nongovernmental organization told the Cescr that CDs containing a song by an obscure Japanese rock band with inflammatory lyrics were sent to former comfort women.

These comfort women, currently in their 80s and 90s, live at a shelter in Gwangju, Korea, and received the CD in March and expressed distress by the translated Japanese lyrics that exhorted violence against Korean comfort women, stating “Kill the old whores.”

In recent rallies in Tokyo and Osaka, civilian protesters shouted out slogans with hate speech including “Kill Koreans,” said the Asahi Shimbun.

The rights committee’s recommendations follow a string of inflammatory remarks from right-wing Japanese politicians trivializing the nation’s wartime aggressions, including Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s insensitive remarks on May 13 stating comfort women were “necessary,” which he continues to maintain.

This incited not only Japan’s victim countries but civil rights advocates, media and politicians both in Japan and the international community.

But Hashimoto, the co-leader of the newly formed Japan Restoration Party, has been backed by several politicians, including fellow co-leader Shintaro Ishihara, who on Tuesday called the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty of 1951 and the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement of 1960 “stupid” at a party meeting and defended Hashimoto’s remarks. He further added that Tokyo fought in self-defense in World War II.

Kyodo News reported yesterday that Takeo Hiranuma, former minister of economy, trade and industry under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and a member of the Japan Restoration Party, asserted that the comfort women were thought of as “prostitutes of the battlefield” and denied government involvement in recruiting sex slaves in a speech in Tokyo on Wednesday.

He added regarding comfort women’s request for compensation for Japan’s wartime atrocities “long ago, there were prostitutes and women who worked as prostitutes in wartime have filed lawsuits.”

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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