Korean 'Comfort Women' Still Protesting Decades Later

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:36 p.m. DST, 25 June 2014

Photo by: Melissa Wall "Unveiling of Comfort Women Memorial"SEOUL, South Korea -- Elderly Korean women (euphemistically referred to as “comfort women”) who were forced into prostitution as teenagers during WWII, have gathered every Wednesday since 8 January, 1992, outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul to protest the atrocities they faced. These demonstrations are now lauded by guidebooks and travel websites as a must-see for tourists to Seoul.

Though groups of Japanese tourists come to apologize to these determined women, the Japanese government has refused to apologize. The women are hoping the Japanese government will issue an official apology and provide reparations to those forced into sexual slavery. Japan’s response is that this compensation was settled with the 1994 “Asian Women’s Fund.” South Korea rejected the fund because it is a semi-private organization run by volunteers, and not under the authority of the government.

In 2007 the U.S. House of Representatives, passed a non-binding resolution that called on Japan to apologize for forcing these women into prostitution. In April, President Obama called on Japan to acknowledge their past wrong-doings, saying, "This was a terrible, egregious violation of human rights. Those women were violated in ways that, even in the midst of war, were shocking.” Obama also called on Seoul to look to the future and be more flexible in its relations with Japan to ensure better cooperation between the two countries.

Japan responded that the issue of wartime sex slavery is not a political or diplomatic subject. The issue is a hindrance to Tokyo’s relations with East Asia, and South Korea in particular.

Despite their dwindling numbers, with fewer than 100 Korean comfort women still alive, one survivor, Hwang Geum-joo says, ”Our numbers are dwindling every year, but we are still full of anger and they should apologize for what they did to us!” Around 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, but also from China, Taiwan, and Indonesia, were forced into brothels to serve Japanese imperial troops. Many were abducted from their homes or duped into forced prostitution after responding to calls to work as nurses and factory workers. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and other members of the political right continue to doubt these women, instead, claiming professional prostitutes staffed the brothels.

Monday, June 23, 2014, South Korea protested an appearance by Japan’s ambassador, condemning Tokyo’s review of a noteworthy 1993 apology for the wartime sex slavery. The review made the claim that there was no evidence to confirm the forced sexual misconduct.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying is also urging Japan to address the problematic history of sexual exploitation. Japan invaded China in 1937 and held an authoritarian rule for eight years.

In 2011 on the occasion of the 1,000th demonstration, the organizers erected the Pyeonghwa-bu Peace Monument, a statue of a barefooted-teenage Korean girl, with her hands in her lap, and a small bird on her left shoulder representing peace and freedom. The women offer monthly tours of the 'House of Sharing,' a benefit center for survivors of Japanese sex slavery, where many of the ladies now live.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

Plight of Sex Slaves From Moldova to Dubai

Sex for sale from Moldova to Dubai. Mimi Chakarova tells a powerful story through photos and in the words of the victims of this heinous crime. The booming "Sex Tourism" industry is no longer a threat to women and children in remote, impoverished countries, it is a plague that is infecting all countries. The men and women who abuse and use other human beings for their own sexual gratification do not live in isolation. They could be and probably are someone to whom you are married and sleep with, or with whom you work or attend religious functions, or who educates your children. We must be more vigilant in trying to stem the tide of this worldwide crisis.

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The Price of Virginity | Catarina Migliorini

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:00 p.m. EDT, 21 November 2012

Catarina Migliorini, Photo Courtesy of El Mundo y Economia Negocios

Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. For centuries, women and men have primarily engaged in prostitution either as a means of last resort or because they were forced into it, as in the case of victims of sex trafficking.

Women living in progressive societies are acutely aware of the hard won gains that have propelled them from the bedroom to the boardroom, but they exist with the knowledge that for every advance made, there are those who would like to turn back the clock. Although afforded the legal expectation of equal treatment and pay in comparison to men, sexism remains a constant fact that is complicated by the media's dominant portrayal of women in general.

The power of the media further erodes the gains made because the entertainment industry seems predicated upon the idea of pushing the envelope when it comes to sexuality and nudity, particularly with regard to women who are often scantily clad next to appropriately clothed men. This is the mildest and subtlest form of sexual objectification, but because of the pervasiveness it barely registers as unacceptable despite its' obvious intent.

Western media routinely utilizes sexualized images of women to promote their products, though this is seen as less egregious or damaging than the objectification that exists in societies in which girls and women (and in some instances boys such as the Bacha Bazi), are treated as chattel and are routinely sold, bartered, or killed depending upon their perceived sexual value.

It is under this rubric that the idea of a contest to auction off the virginity of young women not only found serious consideration, but also purchase. Thomas Williams Productions, an Australian film company scripted a documentary titled, ‘Virgins Wanted.’ The director, Justin Sisely, sent out a casting call and finally settled on Catarina Migliorini, a 20-year old Brazilian college student to be the subject of the movie.

The premise of the documentary was fairly straight-forward, anonymous men would bid for the right to be the first person to ‘deflower’ Migliorini. According to the New York Daily News, Migliorini agreed to participate in this project to raise money to build homes for poverty-stricken families in her hometown.

When all was said and done, her virginity was valued at $790,000. According to the same article, a Japanese man named Natsu outbid on eBay, other contenders, including American bidders Jack Miller and Jack Right as well as a high-roller from India, Rudra Chatterjee for the right to have sex with Migliorini. Natsu was tested for any sexually transmitted diseases and required to use a condom. Migliorini was given $20,000 and 90% of the final auction price.

That her virginity would fetch such a noteworthy price is a stark reminder of how much work remains to secure women's rights, even in progressive societies. It is also an indictment of our values which implicitly accepts that if one pays enough money, and if it is for a good cause, then it isn't prostitution.

However, to paraphrase Shakespeare, a rose by any other name is still a rose, and prostitution is still the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment.

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FBI Rescues 79 American Child Sex Slaves

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:20 PM EDT, 25 June 2012

FBI Badge & Gun (Cropped), Source (Wikipedia)The FBI announced the results of a three-day operation during which 79 minors were rescued and 104 pimps were arrested. Today’s announcement demonstrated that the problem of large-scale trafficking of children into sexual slavery is not limited to foreign countries.

This latest coordinated effort marked the sixth deployment of “Operation Cross Country," implemented to free children who became ensnared in the nightmare of prostitution through online media venues such as social media websites, chat rooms and text messaging.

Despite aggressive television, billboard, and internet campaigns warning parents and caregivers of the insidious tactics employed by increasingly sophisticated predators, young people continue to post personal information on the web at an alarming rate.

According to the website Internet Safety 101.org:

  • 29% of Internet sex crime relationships were initiated on a social networking site. (Journal of Adolescent Health 27, 2010)
  • In 26% of online sex crimes against minors, offenders disseminated information and/or pictures of the victim through the victim's personal social networking site. (Journal of Adolescent Health 47, 2010)
  • 33% of all Internet-initiated sex crimes involved social networking sites. (Journal of Adolescent Health 47, 2010)
  • 72% of teens have a social networking profile and nearly half (47%) have a public profile viewable by anyone.
  • Frequently children in 4th-6th grade levels engage in social networking activities. In the process they post personal, potentially exploitable, information about themselves online. Specifically, and within the last school year: 16% posted personal interests online, 15% posted information about their physical activities and 20% gave out their real name. In addition, 5% posted information about their school, 6% posted their home address, 6% posted their phone number and 9% posted pictures of themselves.
  • Teens often include the following information on their social networking profile.
  • Real age (50%)
  • Photos of themselves (62%)
  • City they live in (41%)
  • School name/location (45%)
  • Videos of friends (16%)
  • Videos of themselves (14%)
  • Their cell phone number (14%)
  • Places where they typically go (9%) (Source: Internet Safety 101.org)

The majority of the children rescued were girls between the ages of 11 and 13, but there were some boys. Most of the children were enticed by the promise of greater liberation from parental authority, while others were tempted by things as inconsequential as cell phones or other minor gifts.

As with most human trafficking cases, once captured the victims remain enslaved through psychological abuse and torture. Many are told that either they or their loved one will be killed if they try to escape or contact the authorities. The children freed during this operation are at the beginning of their journey to freedom.

Though these children have been physically freed, they have a long road ahead of them to achieve physical and psychological healing. Previous reports state that victims liberated during previous phases of "Operation Cross Country" have had severe difficulties adjusting and in some cases their behaviors were so anti-social that battered and abused and runaway shelters refuse to admit them.

These raids are a promising start and hopefully the American public will continue to increase its national and international awareness, advocacy and support of the hundreds of thousands of children who fall victim to perfidious sex traffickers every day.

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Dutch-Moroccan 'Lover Boy' Pimps

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 15:46 p.m. EDT, 17 May 2012

Anti-Sex-Slavery Campaign, Photo by Stevens James Collins PhotographyNETHERLANDS - Al Jazeera reported on the release of a film about the explosive increase in the Netherlands of forced prostitution of girls as young as 12 by their Dutch-Moroccan ‘boyfriends.’

The film by Julia Rooke and Caroline Pare features Ibrahim, a Dutch-Moroccan social worker who made the brave decision to speak about this troubling phenomena.

He starts by telling viewers that he is proud of his heritage as a Moroccan of biracial descent; however, this growing problem of ‘Lover Boys,’ who are also often also of Dutch-Moroccan descent, is one that needs to be publicized and eradicated. The term ‘Lover Boys’ refers to young boys and men who woo young women with promises of love and acceptance, lavish attention, and expensive gifts before turning them out into the street as prostitutes.

This new brand of pimping is subtle at first but later turns violent. Both the pimps and the prostitutes have a difficult time escaping the lifestyle. Many of the young men are vulnerable, at risks kids who are just trying to survive, and when they are introduced to this method of making money by seducing young girls, they choose this form of crime rather than other more risky ventures such as selling drugs.

In the Netherlands prostitution is a legal and well-regulated industry for women 18 years or older. However, the problem with prostitutes pimped out by ‘Lover Boys’ is that fact these girls are often under-aged and can eventually become so ensnared that they can be sold into sexual slavery after enduring incredible abuse at the hands of their ‘lovers.’

Ultimately, Ibrahim chose to work with the film’s producers, Julia Rooke and Caroline Pare because he felt that the risks outweighed the potential of reducing human suffering. Exposing the problem of ‘Lover Boys’ has the potential of further polarizing the Dutch population, which like other European nations, struggles to assimilate different immigrant populations including Muslims. Anders Brievik of Norway is an extreme representative of a group of Europeans who would prefer to deport all Arabs, even those who were born in Europe.

The silence that masks the problem of 'Lover Boys' is similar to hidden plight of the Bacha Bazi. These unfortunate Muslim boys are used as sex slaves by Afghanis men, but this aberrant practice is relatively unknown outside of the country because the subject of sex and prostitution in Muslim communities is taboo and contrary to the teachings of the Qu’ran.

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Published: 17 May 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

Also, the demarcation in Islamic culture between what happens 'inside' and 'outside' the house belies the fact that Islamic nations struggle against many of the same ills that beset every nation - prostitution, pedophilia, rape, etc.

Because of the generally monolithic perception Western cultures have about Islamic culture, hidden human right's abuses continue to exist and flourish unabated. The problem is further compounded by many Muslims refusal to speak out and expose not only the hypocrisy but also the immorality that exists in their communities.

Growing up in Africa I was acutely aware of the diminished status of a woman who is perceived by the community to have ‘compromised’ her virtue. When African and Arab immigrants arrive in America, it has been my experience that they view American and European women as ‘loose,’ and thus can be treated poorly without fear of retribution since they have no men to protect them.

For men from patriarchal cultures where the women are sequestered and their every action determined, ‘outside women’ are viewed as fair game and willing accomplices. When they encounter women who are free to make decisions about with whom they will have sex, when and what venues they will frequent, and make the choice to drink and get drunk, in some (NOT ALL) African and Arab men’s minds these women deserve whatever happens to them.

What is also disturbing is the fact that most of these men are usually married to women in their home country or even in the city to which they have immigrated, but unlike the ‘outside women,’ their wives conform to the strict rules of decorum as determined by their community and are never allowed to venture forth unescorted. By contrast their husbands can and do present themselves as free agents and engage in extramarital affairs.

Some of the men and boys who agreed to be interviewed for the film with the condition of anonymity, gave chilling accounts of their disdain for the girls they pimped, and the callousness they demonstrated toward their former 'girlfriends' was chilling.

The film also interviews some of the girls who were forced into a life of prostitution by their ‘boyfriends,’ but have subsequently escaped. After watching the film I encourage you to visit Al Jazeera to read the entire interview with Ibrahim. (Source: Al Jazeera | Film by Julia Rooke and Caroline Pare)

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The Cap of Prostitution

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 16:35 p.m. EDT, 19 April 2010

AFRICA - The practice of female genital mutilation entails the partial or total cutting away of external female genitalia. Traditional healers, birth attendants, or elderly woman usually carry out the procedure, usually in septic environments.

The clitoris is excised with crude instruments such as knives, razor blades and broken glass without anesthesia. During post surgical healing the girls are at greatest risk of infection, and the agony they suffer is exacerbated by the lack of access to pain medication.  In lieu of this herbal solutions or poultices are applied to check the bleeding and lessen the pain.

This crude and hazardous procedure is grounded in and surrounded by various myths, misconceptions, and superstition nonsense. For instance, the ritual is performed as a rite of passage to prepare young girls for womanhood and marriage. The belief that it prevents a woman from giving birth to a stillborn child is also quite prevalent. In some parts of western Nigeria it is regarded as a taboo for the head of a child to touch the mother's clitoris during delivery. Some of the proverbs that support and underscore these mythical postulations include:

  • "The clitoris is a cap of prostitution which the vagina wears from heaven."
  • "If we don't clip the clitoris, it is going to be asking great sacrifices of the penis when it grows."
  • "The fortune gathered by the penis is taken up by the vagina."

Even though these beliefs predate the coming and spread of Islam, traditional African practices have subsequently become closely related and allied with radical Islamic teachings, traditions, and customs. Africa is a deeply patriarchal society. Men dominate the socioeconomic and political machinery and organizations. Men are regarded as natural leaders who are superior and born to rule over women.

Women are considered weaker vessels who are merely extensions of men and secondary human beings. The pride and dignity that women feel in these societies is derived from and dependent upon men. Hence, African societies attach more value and importance to a male child than to a female child. Ten daughters are not worth a son. No woman is regarded as complete or real until she gives birth to a male. Delivering a son gives a woman pride and a place at her husband's home.

It is said that every married woman stands with one leg in her husband's house until she gives birth to a male child. Like the many traditional societies in China, India and the Middle East, the traditional African value system is fundamentally biased against women and is gender insensitive. Thus, in many parts of Africa, girls as young as seven are married to men old enough to be their fathers, and in some cases their grandfathers. Parents often marry their daughters off before they are old enough to decide for themselves. When the issue of dowry comes into play, the girls are literally treated as chattel that can bought and sold, thereby becoming the property of the purchaser who can then use her as he deems fit. This usually culminates in rape, physical abuse, abandonment, or murder.

Women are further diminished through the practice of Polygamy which is another traditional custom that prevails in Africa. Men are licensed to marry as many women as "they can afford" to support. Therefore, theoretically the number of wives a man has can infer his level of wealth or business acumen. However, as with any "status" symbol, many women are acquired as wives by men who are ill-equipped to care for them or the offspring that are borne to him. As part of this tradition, upon the death of a woman's husband, the eldest man in the family inherits the woman and she is evicted from her husband's house while her children and property are confiscated. Source: Excerpted from text written by Leo Igwe. Mr. Igwe is director of the Centre for Inquiry in Nigeria. He can be reached at nskepticleo@yahoo.com.

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