Osaka Prefecture Gubernatorial Election

The debate over sex work is thorny and complex, and has been the source of much disagreement, both within feminism and outside of it. But one thing we can all agree on is that forced prostitution and human trafficking are bad, right?

Not according to Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka. At a recent press conference, the young, conservative, nationalist mayor defended the Japanese army’s use of “comfort women” during World War II, a euphemism referring to young women from occupied areas who were forced into sexual slavery. “To maintain discipline in the military, it must have been necessary at that time,” he said. “For soldiers who risked their lives in circumstances where bullets are flying around like rain and wind, if you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary. That’s clear to anyone.” Because being in the military gives you the right to rape people? I guess once you’re violating the enemy’s bodily autonomy by killing them, you’re on some shaky moral ground already, but assaulting civilians is arguably much worse. That’s why we have the Geneva Convention, and the concept of “war crimes” in general.

But wait, there’s more. Hashimoto also told a US commander stationed in Okinawa that his troops should “make better use of the sex industry” there. “He froze, and then with a wry smile said that is off-limits for the U.S. military,” he said of the encounter. “I told him that there are problems because of such formalities…If you don’t make use of those places, you cannot properly control the sexual energy of those tough guys.”

It would be easy to dismiss these as the ramblings of a reactionary lunatic, but the fact is, these ideas still hold some influence, and not just in Japan. The idea that men in dangerous, testosterone filled environments cannot control themselves around women has contributed greatly to the US military’s incompetence at dealing with its own sexual assault problem. Like I’ve said before, women currently serving in Iraq are more likely to be raped by a fellow American than killed by enemy fire. Think about that for a second. That’s fucking crazy. The first step to dealing with this problem is confronting the flawed logic at its heart, and holding men responsible for controlling themselves around their fellow human beings.

Of course, rape also has a long history of being used as a weapon in wartime, one which extends all the way back to antiquity. By refusing to acknowledge the misdeeds of the Japanese army, Hashimoto is tacitly endorsing the practice, which should not be mistaken for a series of isolated crimes by a few disturbed individuals. Here are some chilling accounts of what various “comfort women” endured. That the few surviving victims are still fighting to have their ordeals acknowledged in 2013 is absurd, but not inconsistent with Hashimoto’s ideology, which has been likened to fascism by some.

(Via The Cut)

Photo: Getty Images