Legal Responses to World War II Sexual Violence: The Japanese Experience

TitleLegal Responses to World War II Sexual Violence: The Japanese Experience
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsTotani, Yuma
EditorHeineman, Elizabeth D.
Book TitleSexual Violence in Conflict Zones: From the Ancient World to the Era of Human Rights
PublisherUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Historians of older conflicts at best have access to oral histories conducted decades after the conflict’s conclusion. Frequently such testimonies are collected as part of activist efforts to gain recognition for victims. They must be interpreted not only in light of fading memory but also in light of the effort that prompted the collection of testimony. As Yuma Totani demonstrates, this is not a purely academic exercise: scholars are not the only ones who evaluate the legitimacy of testimony regarding sexual violence. Even though the Tokyo Tribunal of 1946–48 collected testimony on mass rape and the “comfort woman” system, knowledge of these phenomena had little impact on Japan because the Tribunal was dismissed as “victors’ justice” and there was little effort to make its findings accessible for a lay audience. More recently, however, Japanese human rights activists have not only pushed their government to recognize this history but also worked to gain the Japanese public’s recognition of testimonies gathered by Korean activists. [from introduction]

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