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

Body of Indian Gang Raped Student Returned

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Patrice Ellerbe, Staff WriterLast Modified: 12: 34 p.m. EDT, 16 January 2013

Ayesha Meera, India Gang Rape Victim Dead Body, Photo by Two Circles

NEW DELHI, India - Only weeks after a shocking gang rape incident in New Delhi, six men have been arrested in India after being accused of abducting and raping a 29 year-old woman in India.  The woman was said to be the only passenger on the bus as she traveled to her village in northern Punjab state on a late Friday night. The driver of the bus drove the woman to a location deserted of people, where he and five friends took turns raping her before dropping her off at her village early Sunday morning. The six suspects were arrested, and then confessed to the crime after the woman filed a complaint.

As for the incident that occurred only weeks before this, the five suspects that were accused of brutally raping a 23-year old woman are set to go to trial in a fast-track court. Outrage sparked nationwide once news got out that the victim and a male friend were lured onto a bus, beat, and brutally raped, resulting in death only a month ago. Because the sixth suspect is under the age of 18, he will be tried separately in a juvenile court. It was unfortunate that the woman died of her severe internal injuries on 29 December 2012 in a Singapore hospital.

Indian authorities have charged the men with murder, rape, kidnapping, and various other charges. According to the lawyer of three of the suspects, his clients will plead not guilty. The lawyer stated that the police used force to gain confessions from the men and also manipulated the evidence to make his clients seem guilty. Two of the suspects have stated they want to become witnesses for the prosecution in order to receive lighter sentences.

Protesters have called for tougher rape laws, major police reforms and a transformation in the way the Indian nation treats women, period.

It is disappointing when nations have not taken more serious action after situations like this have occurred multiple times, and in such a short time frame. In agreement with protesters, India should enforce rape laws as well as begin the transformation as to how women are treated. In this day and age, equality is important. If women are not looked at as an equal, men will only continue to take advantage of them because they seem so weak. It is imperative that India enforces female equality, and if not that, make it known that it is not okay to keep violating the women of that or any other nation.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @PatriceEllerbe

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Brazilian Gold Miners Massacre Yanomami Indians

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:51 AM EDT, 31 August 2012

Yanomami Men, Known as Horonami, Photo by CannivalsCARACAS, Venezuela — In a scene that evoked the horrors of the 1993 massacre in an Amazonas village called Haximú in which 16 Yanomami were murdered, Venezuelan authorities are now investigating the July 2012 massacre of approximately 80 residents of a village called Irotatheri.

This is the third confirmed incident in which illegal miners have murdered Yanomami Indians in pursuit of gold. The Venezuelan authorities reported in 2010 that four people in an indigenous community died after drinking water contaminated by miners.

The Yanomami have often had to contend with Brazilian gold miners, known in Portuguese as garimpeiros, who for years have crossed into Venezuela and torn up the forest, leaving pits of water laced with mercury. (Source: Associated Press)

This latest encroachment and violence was reported by villagers from Hokomawe who walked for 15 days to relay information of the massacre to authorities in Puerto Ayacucho, the capital of Amazonas State in southern Venezuela.

The Yanomami are a peaceful people and one of the largest indigenous groups of people who live deep in the Amazon jungle.  Also known as the Horonami, the group is well-known because they have been the subject of numerous anthropological studies, the first of which was published in the late 1960s. This book has subsequently become required reading for anthropology, sociology, and ethnography university students.

The Yanomami maintain a traditional way of life deep in the jungle. Their village, Irotatheri, sits along the upper reaches of the Ocamo River. The three surviving members of the village were hunting when they heard the report of gunfire and the sound of a helicopter flying overhead.

Because of increased negative interactions with the illegal Brazilian miners who use helicopters to transport supplies, equipment, and gold, the hunters hurried back to the village to protect their loved ones. Upon their arrival they were horrified to discover the burned and charred remains of family and friends.

It has been alleged that this wasn’t just about the continued encroachment by illegal gold miners, but according to the three surviving members’ account, the miners attacked in retaliation because some men in the community had been "rescuing Yanomami women" who were possibly being sexually abused and imprisoned by the miners.  Source: New York Times

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Death by Marriage | Rape Victim Amina Filali

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:31 PM EDT, 18 March 2012

Mukhtar Mai

MOROCCO – On Saturday, 17 March 2012, thousands of people around the world awoke to the horror of the suicide of a young girl who had been forced to marry her rapist.

Her rapist was given the option of marrying the girl under Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code. This antiquated law allows for a rapist to marry his victim to escape prosecution. It is a law that has been used to justify a traditional practice of ‘preserving’ the honor of the woman's family by making the victim marry her victimizer or face certain death.

Amina Al Filali, 16, swallowed rat poison yesterday in protest of her marriage to the man who raped her a year earlier. Rape victims face numerous challenges in seeking justice and healing, but in cultures where the ‘honor’ of the family outweighs the rights of its ‘less valued’ members, a rape victim can be placed in an untenable predicament.

Moroccan families of rape victims, who have availed themselves of this resolution, admit that they coerce the victims into marrying their rapists out of fear that she won’t be able to find a husband if the community finds out that she has been raped.

In many societies throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, the loss of a woman's virginity prior to marriage, not only reduces her ‘value,’ but causes a great scandal which ‘injures’ the entire family. The rape victim is thereby sacrificed so that the males who did not protect her can absolve themselves of further responsibility.

In the photo above, a Pakistani woman, Mukhtar Mai, was gang-raped in 2002 on orders of a traditional village council as punishment for acts allegedly committed by her younger brother. Rather than retreat into silence or commit suicide (the expected response when dishonor is brought to a family), Mukhtar Mai testified against the perpetrators. She used the compensation money she later received to build schools and a shelter for abused women.

As in the States, the burden of proof of rape rest solely on the victim’s ability to prove she was attacked and that she didn’t ‘ask’ for it by putting herself in a compromising situation. In countries where ‘honor’ killings are prevalent, a woman risks being prosecuted for debauchery if she is unable to prove that she was raped.

In the case of Amina, according to her father, Lahcen Filali, the court pushed the marriage, even though the perpetrator initially refused. He only consented when faced with a potential 5 to 10 years in prison, which is the penalty under Moroccan law for rape. However, because Amina was a minor when she was raped, her attacker would have faced 10 to 20 years if he chose to go to court.

Immediately after the marriage, Amina complained to her mother that her husband was beating her repeatedly with increasing ferocity during the five short months of their marriage. Her mother as much a victim of societal pressure and expectations as her daughter, counseled patience.

Amina was subjected first to rape, then to a child-marriage, and finally to repeated physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her rapist. In a society where she had no voice, she chose the only option available to her, to take her own life.

Ironically, it may be this act of desperation that is giving voice to the countless others who are stuck in similar nightmares. Though Morocco updated its family code in 2004, Fouzia Assouli, a women’s rights activists and president of Democratic League for Women's Rights, says there remains a long road to achieve equality.

'It is unfortunately a recurring phenomenon,' she said. 'We have been asking for years for the cancellation of Article 475 of the penal code which allows the rapist to escape justice. In Morocco, the law protects public morality but not the individual and legislation outlawing all forms of violence against women, including rape within marriage, has been stuck in the government since 2006.’

In recent years, reports of young women who have been raped, and then sentenced to death by stoning, have been reported from Nigeria to Iran.

Last year the plight of rape victims in Afghanistan was featured in an European Union (EU) commissioned documentary about Afghan woman serving prison time for so-called “moral crimes.” The EU blocked the film’s release – saying it would endanger the women involved in the film. (Source: Aljazeera)

In an unfathomable abuse of justice, Gulnaz, 21, who was brutally raped by her husband’s cousin, was serving a 12-year sentence for adultery. While in prison, she was raising her infant daughter, who is the offspring of her attacker. By contrast, her rapist only received a 7-year sentence.

President Hamid Karzai, under immense international pressure finally agreed to pardon Gulnaz with ‘no conditions.’ Initial petitions for her freedom required that she marry her attacker, a stipulation which she categorically rejected.

Perhaps it was because of Amina’s youth, her parent’s pressure or unrelenting physical abuse, but unlike Gulnaz, Amina was not strong enough to hold onto hope or life. A Facebook page called 'We are all Amina Filali has been formed and an online petition calling for Morocco to end the practice of marrying rapists and their victims has already gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

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Malice Aforethought

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:16 AM EDT, 3 January 2012

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive” ~ Sir Walter Scott

In the world of predator and prey, the predator's desire to satiate their hunger leads them inexorable to kill. Unlike humans, the wild predator's desire to cull the weakest from the pack is purely instinctual.

By contrast, people who possess a desire to abuse others as a means to meet their own emotional inadequacies, seek out the weakest members of society to exploit. Their chosen prey can be children, the elderly, men or women who have been emotionally or physically abused.

This type of abuse is a human rights issue, but because the individuals seem to be willing participants, they are not traditionally viewed as victims. Often men and women who find themselves in adulterous or other inappropriate relationships play the role of victim or victimizer. When the two first meet, each tell lies which are sown in a garden of deceit with the hope of a relationship. The predator lies to his prey, and the prey lies to themselves by believing the lamb can lay unharmed with the lion.

Though abusive relationships affect people from all walks of life, this post shall focus on women. As a person who has suffered abuse during my formative years, I was often perceived as prey. Once I reached adulthood I engaged in unhealthy relationships until I received help. However, in all that time I never crossed the line with married or committed men nor did I tolerate physical abuse.

All relationships begin with chance or intentional meetings, followed by polite conversation during which people get to know each other. By contrast, the predator uses these interludes as a fact finding mission. During these 'chats' abuse victims unconsciously reveal the source of their pain because venting provides temporary relief from constant self-recrimination.

Predatory men exploit the information they glean by assuring women that they are not like the other men who have abused them in the past. They then proceed to fabricate a reality which leads them both down a slippery slope. If the man is married, the oft said and well known lies soon follow. "I am leaving my wife. We are getting a divorce. I am only staying for the children."

Once the woman is thoroughly invested, the man begins to make overtures toward a sexual relationship. When consummated it becomes nearly impossible for the women to extricate herself from the adulterous affair.  In addition to the mental subjugation, the woman becomes physically bonded to the man by a combination of two powerful hormones called oxytocin and vasopressin, also know as 'love hormones.'

An adulturous couple are much like the characters from the medieval tale Tristan and Isolde, who accidentally consumed a love potion and are turned into hopeless addicts. Even though they realized that Isolde's husband, the king, would punish their adultery with death, they had to have their love fix. It also stands to reason that humans are conditioned by their experiences, which may be the reason some people tend to date the same “type" of partner over and over again.

“Some of our sexuality has evolved to stimulate that same oxytocin system to create female-male bonds,” according to neuroscientist Dr. Larry Young.  He posits that sexual foreplay and intercourse stimulate the same parts of a woman’s body that are involved in giving birth and nursing."

This hormonal hypothesis, is by no means proven fact, but this “cocktail of ancient neuropeptides,” like the oxytocin released during foreplay or orgasm," would help explain females’ desire to have sex even when they are not fertile." Being Human: Love: Neuroscience reveals all:  (Nature 457, 148 (8 January 2009)

In Western societies where polygamy is not an acceptable norm, the women who find themselves in the position of mistress remain quiet for fear of reprisal from the wives, and judgment from people who would blame them for their plight. Thus, many women spend years with married men who father their children and build parallel lives with them without fully committing. In the case of a friend, she only discovered her father's duplicity at his funeral when his other family arrived.

This post does not seek to absolve either adulterer of responsibility, but in the case of a man who preys upon the emotional weakness of a damaged woman, he is nothing short of a predator. His indifference to the collateral damage his actions cause to his primary family, to the extramarital children he fathers, and to the woman he is exploiting, is nothing short of malice aforethought.

Child Pornography Nightmare | Dreamboard

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 09:55 AM EDT, 5 August 2011

Death of Marat I, Edvard Munch, 1907U.S. federal government officials announced the arrests of 52 people involved in an international online child pornography ring that  exploited children through a bulletin board with the moniker "Dreamboard."

The arrests were the culmination of an investigation launched in late 2009. Code named 'Operation  Delego," this phase of the investigation was an out growth of an earlier sting instigated to capture online child sexual predators. To date a total of 72 defendants have been charged and more than 500 additional people have been indicted for their participation in this heinous child sexual exploitation and rape ring.

'Dreamboard,' a members-only, online bulletin board created and operated to promote pedophilia, first came to the attention of authorities in 2009. Members hail from five continents and 13 countries including Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Serbia and Sweden.

In a perverse parody of due diligence, the board's administrators rigorously screened applicants to validate that future participants' predilections were prurient enough for membership. When applying for membership applicants were required to submit  compromising pornographic images of themselves with children 12 years or younger.

Upon being granted membership, pedophiles had immediate access to graphic images and videos of adults molesting children 12 years old and under, often violently. To remain in 'good standing' participants had to frequently update their profiles with new images and videos of children as they raped them.

“The members of this criminal network shared a demented dream to create the preeminent online community for the promotion of child sexual exploitation but for the children they victimized, this was nothing short of a nightmare,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in an August 3rd statement.

The indictments and arrests were conducted in three separate phases over the two-year span of the operation. Each of the 72 defendants are charged with conspiring to advertise and distribute child pornography and 50 of them are also charged with engaging in child pornography enterprise.

Of the 52 defendants arrested yesterday, 13 have pleaded guilty; while 20 of the 72 remain at large and are known only by their online identities.

Four of the 13 people who pleaded guilty have been sentenced  to prison terms ranging from 20 to 30 years in prison.

The travesty of these crimes is that many of the perpetrators will probably remain free because of the veil of anonymity the Internet provides.  Additionally, though the sentences of 20 to 30 years may seem lengthy, they pale by comparison to the life sentences these men have meted out to their victims.

The physical, sociological and psychological damage perpetrated against these children will last a lifetime and will affect each member of our society tangentially or directly.  Many of the victims have not been identified and because the geographic footprint of this criminal enterprise; it is likely that the number of children brutalized by this perverse consortium could run into the thousands.

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