When Chieko Takemi speaks at the University for Peace on May 20, she will discuss one of the most painful topics in Japanese society today: The “comfort women” of World War II.
A Japanese freelance journalist and activist, Takemi has spent years documenting sex slavery during the Japanese invasions of neighboring Asian countries. As one result of her research, Takemi produced a documentary, “Katarungan!: Justice for Lolas!” about comfort women in the Philippines. The University for Peace will screen “Katarungan” and host a presentation by Takemi. The screening is a rare chance to the see the documentary, as it is not readily available in DVD or online formats.
The titular “Lolas” refers to Lola Remedios, a Filipino woman who was forced into sex slavery at the hands of the invading Japanese military. Remedios lived in Leyte, the setting for a massive naval battle that left more than 15,000 U.S. and Japanese servicemen dead.
Remedios endured a difficult life, starting with sexual exploitation as a child. When her husband learned of her experience as a comfort woman, he divorced her. Remedios’ second husband died, and she struggled as a single mother before meeting her third husband. Together, Takemi and Remedios put together “The Hidden Battle of Leyte: The Picture Diary of a Girl Taken by the Japanese Military.” Although Remedios passed away in 2011, her public testimonies have become a powerful reminder of Filipino suffering during the war. Takemi uses Remedios’ life as a microcosm for all the “Lolas” of the 1930s and 40s.
While many history buffs are familiar with the battles of the Pacific front, sexual violence is a far more sensitive topic and remains controversial. “The Rape of Nanking,” by Iris Chang, chronicled of a notorious massacre in China, but aside from this 1997 bestseller, books about combat far outnumber books about exploitation. Meanwhile, the Japanese government has been slow to officially address the damage done to East Asia’s “comfort women.”
“Since the Japanese government has not settled this [dispute] yet,” said Michiko Fukuda, a University for Peace student and one of the event’s organizers, “this has been a serious diplomatic issue as well as a long-term human rights violation against women.”
“Katarungan” will be screened May 20 at the University for Peace, Ciudad Colón. 12:30 p.m. Free. Info: University for Peace website.