Java’s ‘comfort’ women recall horrific past under Japanese occupation

According to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) there were 2,000 cases of sexual slavery during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, during World War II.


Senin, 17 Okt 2016 11:52 WIB


Noni Arnie

Paini was a 'comfort woman' during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. (Photo Noni Arnie)

Paini was a 'comfort woman' during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. (Photo Noni Arnie)

According to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) there were 2,000 cases of sexual slavery during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, during World War II.

Two of the victims were Javanese women, Paini and Sri Sukanti.

KBR journalist, Noni Arnie, met the two survivors in Central Java.

A warning that this feature contains some explicit and disturbing content, and is not suitable for children. 

Paini is 87 years old now – beautiful and with a wide smile.

The widow and mother of four lives in a dirt-floor home in the village of Sidomukti, in Central Java.

It’s the same village she remembers the Japanese invading when she was 13. 

When the soldiers came they forced the community into ‘romusha’, the Javanese term for forced labour.

“We were not allowed to take a rest. I had to do whatever they asked. If I refused they would beat me,” remembers Paini. 

“I had to carry stones and soil and also work in the kitchen. But after I finished I would have to go and beg in another village to find food for myself. I had to do it if I wanted to survive. I had nothing to eat if I did not look for it,” she says of that time.

As well as being separated from her family and her husband, things got worse.

Later Paini was forced to be a sex slave, a ‘comfort’ woman for Japanese soldiers.

She explains how it started.

“In the kitchen barracks, a man grabbed me and put his hand over my mouth and then I was forced to have sex with him. My friends ran scared out of that kitchen. After that I sat alone, crying,” Paini said.

There was an 200,000 comfort women for Japanese forces across the region during World War II – in South Korea, China, Taiwan, East Timor and Indonesia.

Paini’s situation endured for almost two months, until two Japanese soldiers saved her.

“I screamed and they heard and helped me. He said, ‘I will take you home.’ I asked him, what if his friend, the soldier, got angry. He said he was not afraid. So they took me home to my parents. I still remember their names, Haruka San and Handika Motto,” Paini recalled.

But her family did not welcome her return. They accused her of having an affair with a Japanese soldier and her husband divorced her.

Sri Sukanti has strong memories of those days too.

Attending primary school at the time, Sri was only nine years old when Japanese soldiers took her away.

She was forced to be a sex slave for a man named Ogawa, a Japanese squad commander.

“My father passed out when he saw me taken away. He thought the Japanese soldiers would kill me. The commander brought me to the bed, stroked my bottom, and said I should not go out. I was caressed, kissed, and raped three times,” Sri said. 

“He asked me not to cry. But I kept crying.”

For six months, Sri was treated brutally by Ogawa.

She was also injected with a drug to prevent her from falling pregnant, before she was eventually returned to her parents.

“When I got the injections I could not wake up for a week. It was very painful because all injections were in the same place. At that time they said it would keep me healthy,” Sri said.

The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights and several other parties have fought aggressively for justice for the survivors. Cases claiming compensation were filed for damages incurred, and some funds were granted. 

Until 1997, the Asian Women's Fund (AWF), a private Japanese organization, distributed the funds to the survivors, a total of 3.6 million US Dollars.

But Paini and Sri Sukanti never received anything. 

“They said there’s a reward but I was never offered it. If I am not wrong, the amount was about $US7,700. But I never got any,” Paini said.

Some of the money was used to build nursing homes for the former comfort women in several cities in Indonesia.

Unlike other countries, South Korea for example, the Japanese government never apologized to the women of Indonesia who were forced to be sex slaves for Japanese troops.

Paini says she will never forget what Japanese soldiers did to her.

“I can forgive the Japanese soldiers if I was face to face with them. But if not, I am not sure. I cannot. The important thing is God still gives me health, protection, and strength. That’s it.”



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