Thursday, April 11, 2013

No comfort for Minister Kishida

What must have been on Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida's mind as he stood behind actress Angelina Jolie at the ending press conference of G8 Foreign Ministers Summit in London? Ms. Jolie was commending The G8 for adopting a Declaration on Sexual Violence, a new initiative to end rape and sexual violence on children, women, and men as a weapon of war in conflicts around the globe.

As British Foreign Secretary William Hague observed, "This is one of the greatest and most persistent injustices in the world. It is also one of the most neglected." His words echoed those of U.S. President Barak Obama, who on August 11, 2012 had issued an Executive Order directing his Administration to design a multi-year strategy that will more effectively prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally. Obama said "gender-based violence undermines not only the safety, dignity, and human rights of the millions of individuals who experience it, but also the public health, economic stability, and security of nations."

For Minister Kisida, so much of what was said at this April 11th presser also applied to the arguments for Japan, a G8 country, to acknowledge and address the suffering of the Comfort Women (and men), sex slaves to Imperial Japan's Armed Forces and overseas public and private officials. By signing the Declaration, he had just committed Japan to equating the abuse of the Comfort Women as a breach of the Geneva Conventions and a crime against humanity. I am not sure if that had ever happened officially before and if not, this is then significant.

The British Foreign Secretary noted that implicit in the Declaration the G8 was:
that there should never be any amnesty for sexual violence in peace agreements, and committed ourselves to ensuring explicit recognition of the need for accountability for sexual violence in any peace agreements that G8 nations are involved in. We need such commitments to end the treatment of rape and sexual violence as a secondary issue, and to put women and women’s rights front and centre in conflict resolution.
Hague introduced Ms. Jolie [Full Transcript] by saying that the G8 has "the ability to show leadership on vast global issues of our time. One of those issues must be the horrific use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war in conflicts around the globe."

He pointed out the anonymity of wartime rape and its association with slavery:
the overwhelming majority of survivors never see any justice for what they have endured. And there has never been any concerted international effort, supported by leading nations of the world, to eradicate sexual violence in conflict in the first place. This has to change. To my mind, this cause is the slave trade of our generation.
He continued, echoing what so many have advocated for the Comfort Women:
I often hear the mistaken view that rape is something that simply happens in war, or even worse, a cultural phenomenon. And I know that to some people this seems like a faraway problem – even though rape camps were set up on European soil in our lifetimes, and even though we live with accounts of survivors and statistics about these crimes at our very fingertips. The moment has come to shatter the myths about sexual violence....Governments finally [need to] do more to confront this problem, not just the many brave groups and individuals working on the ground.
Ms. Jolie added:
There is no choice between peace and justice: peace requires justice. So I welcome the pledge by the G8 to regard rape and sexual violence in armed conflict as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions [see Point #4]; and to give no amnesty to those who commit these crimes. And I fully support the work that will now begin on an International Protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, and look forward to its adoption.
This is all a start, as Ms. Jolie points out. Funding for the "investigation" is needed and a binding protocol still is to be adopted. For now, Japan is not locked into anything other than a promise. It is not reported if Japan has contributed any funds to the initiative.

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