During WWII, jugun ianfu or “comfort women” were used by the Japanese Imperial Army in military brothels in Asia. Kidnapped, forcibly detained, and repeatedly raped, most of the women were girls aged 10 to 20 years.
In 1991, Kim Hak-sun of Korea testified to being a comfort woman during WWII. In March of the following year, a wartime medical certificate bearing the names of 19 women from Iloilo surfaced, bringing to light that women were also sexually violated by the Japanese military in the Philippines. In July 1992, the Task Force for Filipina Victims of Military Sexual Slavery was formed, and later in September, Maria Rosa Henson came ou as a former comfort woman. Many other women, who later came to be known as
“Lolas,” followed Henson’s lead.
Documented cases of jugun ianfu in the country are in the hundreds but the actual number may reach about a thousand. Aside from the physical and psychological damage that were directly inflicted on them, many victims suffered being ostracized and abandoned by family and friends once the rape was known. Some, such as Gertrude Balisalisa who was a law student when she was abducted by the Japanese soldiers, also lost their livelihood and future prospects as a result of the rape.
Organizations like the Liga Para sa mga Lolang Pilipina or LILA Pilipina continue to help former comfort women and their families seek recognition, apology, and retribution from the Japanese government.