Presented March 8th, 2014 in Glendale, CA at the International Women’s Day Comfort Women Press Conference organized by the Korean American Forum of America
AF3IRM is an anti-imperialist transnational feminist organization and we stand firmly with you all today in demanding a formal apology from the Japanese Government to the comfort women and to oppose the recent lawsuit against the City of Glendale that seeks removal of the comfort woman statue.
We stand here today on March 8th, especially, for International Women’s Day – which began as International Working Women’s Day, in recognition of the women workers in New York City who marched and picketed to demand better working conditions back in 1857, and of those women garment workers who led protests on the same day in 1908. We stand here today as women, as women of color, as transnational women, and in the same spirit of protest and resistance to combat this deliberate erasure of women’s history, the neglect for women’s lives, and to continue the fight for our collective survival.
For 15 years, we have waged the Purple Rose Campaign against the trafficking of women and children and this past year, we have evolved and expanded the Purple Rose Campaign into a nationally-coordinated campaign against sexual violence towards and the commodification of transnational/women of color. We know that today women of color are the majority of sex trafficking victims in this country. Women of color worldwide are the ones who comprise the majority of those sold in the mail-order-bride system, who are the commodities offered up in brothel houses around US military bases in and out of this country, and who are the goods offered for sexual violation in prostitution.
We continue the fight in the Purple Rose Campaign because we know that the commodification of and sexual violence towards women today are repeats and continuations of the past. Women’s bodies have been used over and over again as the battleground for militarization and imperialism, with rape and forced prostitution constantly emerging in war and in the wake of conflict. Indeed, the commodification and fetishization of women’s bodies has a long history – and we remember our collective histories and the over 500 years of colonization and imperialism that have oppressed transnational and women of color and claimed their bodies for pleasure, control, and profit. We remember the women from Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and other countries who were forced to become comfort women and who have been subjected to the colonization of their bodies for the profit of imperialism. We remember these women, their stories and their struggles. The sexual violence and abuse inflicted upon them was and is still unacceptable. For decades the comfort women survivors have asked for recognition, yet have been denied. The violations committed against these women have left scars on their bodies, their souls, and their lives and these attacks by the Japanese government on their experiences and their truths only works to dehumanize, invalidate and violate them once again. These women are relevant in our communities and in the women’s movement and are sheroes in our eyes. They can no longer continue to be marginalized or ignored and we will not let their stories be erased from history.
We stand together in unity and solidarity to honor the victims of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery during the 1930s and WWII. We stand by the remaining survivors and demand full acknowledgement, a formal apology, and just compensation. We reject the Japanese government’s objections to honoring these women. We reject their need to question the validity of these women’s stories – they cannot water down the record of their war crimes! We reject their request for the statue’s removal!
We stand firm with the comfort women and those who work to honor them. This is an attack on not only the comfort women- but on ALL women, our bodies, our lives, and our histories. We women will not be silenced. We will not be erased.
The women united will never be defeated!
– Gayle Palma, Los Angeles co-Coordinator