Comfort Woman: A Filipinas Story of Prostitution and Slavery under the Japanese Military.

Author:Rodell, Paul A.
Position:ASIA - Book review
 
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Henson, Maria Rosa. Comfort Woman: A Filipinas Story of Prostitution and Slavery under the Japanese Military. 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Little-field, 2017.

During the Second World War, the Japanese military high command initiated a program creating "comfort stations" for their soldiers in occupied territories where designated local women were forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers. One of the army's key rationales for the program was that the health of the troops could be protected from venereal disease transmitted by sexual contacts outside of its control. Also, this "relief" for the men would supposedly stem incidents of the rape of civilians. Such stations were created in Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaya and filled with approximately 100,000 women impressed into service. In most cases they were indigenous women, but in Indonesia some Dutch women were also taken to the stations, or "rape camps." To this day, the Japanese government continues to claim that the women were either volunteers or prostitutes.

In her memoir, Comfort Woman: A Filipinas Story of Prostitution and Slavery under the Japanese Military, Rosa Henson finally found the courage to tell her story decades after her horrific nine-month experience that began with her kidnaping in April 1943 when she was fifteen years old, until her escape in January the following year thanks to a Filipino anti-Japanese guerrilla attack on the camp. Each day of her brutalization, Henson was repeatedly raped by a line of Japanese soldiers from two in the afternoon until ten at night. Her only time off was when malaria left her too debilitated to service the men. Adding to her misery, more than a few of the soldiers physically abused her beyond using her for mere pleasure.

While this brutal story is the lynchpin of her narrative, Henson includes her life story before and after her trauma, which also makes for fascinating reading. She, herself, was the child of rape when her mother was taken by her tenant family's hacienda owner. Though Don Henson supported his child and her family financially and allowed Rosa to use his family name, she was always shunned by the hacienda clan. After the war and her extended period of inhuman abuse, Rosa had to recover from her physical and psychological scars. While on the road to recovery, she married a poor young agricultural laborer who, in 1950, abandoned her and their two daughters to join the communist party's guerrilla...

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