The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has compiled a report criticising the Japan-South Korea deal over the final resolution of the comfort women issue, reached last December, saying, “It regrets that announcement of the bilateral deal ... did not fully adopt a victim-centred approach.”
On top of recognising the right of former comfort women to a remedy, it urges Japan to provide full and effective redress and reparation, including compensation, satisfaction, official apologies and rehabilitative services.
The report has distorted the meaning of the bilateral deal, hasn’t it? Although the report is not legally binding, it is hard to understand the stance of the committee in expressing such outlandish views. It is reasonable that the government told the United Nations that the report was “extremely regrettable”.
A spokesperson for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry also refuted the report, saying, “In the negotiation with Japan, we made utmost efforts so that opinions of victims can be reflected.” The spokesperson also emphasised that by implementing the bilateral deal, which includes the setting up of a foundation to support former comfort women, South Korea would make efforts to have opinions of former comfort women and related organisations reflected.
Regarding the Japan-South Korea deal, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the international community, including the United States, have hailed it and are in support of it. The negative evaluations made by the committee’s report stand out. The report also regards it as questionable that descriptions of the comfort women issue have been deleted from Japanese textbooks.
Although the descriptions concerning comfort women have decreased, it has been due to the textbook publishers’ own decisions. The textbook screening by the government has been conducted properly. The committee was established in 1982 on the basis of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The committee asks signatory countries to make reports on the status of implementing the convention, and then examines them.
Since the 1990s, the committee has also taken interest in the issue of comfort women. Also, in its previous report released in 2009, the committee urged Japan to give compensation to former comfort women and to educate the Japanese public about related issues. Japan had explained the activity of the Asia Women’s Fund, but the committee has not changed its stance that compensation is necessary. It has not even tried to understand the fact that with the conclusion of the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and South Korea in 1965, problems in regard to property and claims between the two countries “have been settled completely and finally.”
Does the committee base its stance on the opinions of organisations with biased ideas and remarks made by individuals?
The government, at a session of the committee held in the middle of February, made for the first time a comprehensive explanation on facts related to comfort women, including that the accounts given by Seiji Yoshida on “hunting for women” were false.
But the committee in its report went only so far as to use the unified expression “comfort women”, while avoiding the expression “sex slaves”.
In the final draft of the report, the committee also called the Japanese Imperial House Law, which stipulates that only male descendants from the Imperial lineage can become Emperor, discriminatory against women. Following the government’s rebuttal of the description, it was eventually deleted.