SF MEMORIAL

Few memorials speak of women, even less of their suffering, courage, endurance and determination to achieve justice. This memorial will speak of all that and more. From 1931 through 1945 during World War II, hundreds of thousands of girls and women from 11 countries were sexually enslaved by the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces. The majority were from China, Korea, the Philippines, and Dutch Indonesia, with many from Burma, East Timor, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries. These girls and women, through coercion, deceit and brutal force, were subjected to exploitation and unspeakable pain and torture every day of their short lives. They were the “ Comfort Women” for the Imperial Japanese army, a euphemism for sex slaves. More than 75 years later, their long struggle demanding justice for this unprecedented government-run system of wartime sexual enslavement is not over. Successive Japanese Administrations continue to deny the truth of this massive crime against humanity and to spend millions of dollars to hide or sanitize the issue. Unfortunately these horrors still take place at sites of national and international conflict today. When the former “Comfort Women” broke their silence they changed the Human Rights landscape forever. In 1993 sexual violence as a strategy of war was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. At the same time people began to understand the horrors of sex trafficking and its relationship to militarism and violence against women. For decades the survivors have been fighting the Japanese government, demanding it to own up to its past and offer official apology, legal compensation and ongoing education to protect the next generation from the same egregious crimes that they endured. The last surviving victims, in their late 80s and 90s, are dying without seeing Justice. In 2015, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution to build a Memorial to the “Comfort Women” in the City and to educate the community about stopping human trafficking of women and girls. This clear mandate by the City of San Francisco, which has supported peace and justice through its vibrant history, will serve as an international beacon of hope around the world.