For our Sisters and Grandmothers: Purple Roses Up!

Connie Huynh
National Chairperson, [email protected]

On February 14th of every year–what is widely recognized as Valentine’s Day in this place we call the U.S.–AF3IRM observes Purple Rose Day. While the rest of society partakes in (or rejects) the commodification of romance, every year on this day AF3IRM recommits to ending the commodification of women and children’s bodies. 

This year, AF3IRM is dedicating Purple Rose Day 2021 to those who have survived militarized violence in the sex trade.

Last month, South Korean women who were trafficked as “comfort women” by the Japanese military won their first legal battle against the Japanese government. Women who were forced into sexual slavery during the illegal occupation of their homelands have been demanding justice, restoration and reparations for decades. Yet, the Japanese government continues to refuse survivor-centered reparations.

Women in AF3IRM are the granddaughters of women who have been trafficked by foreign imperialists. Our grandmothers belonged to a cohort of upwards of 200,000 women who were thrust into sexual slavery by military forces decades ago. This is why we recommit ourselves every year to fighting for the liberation of women and children, rejecting the commodification of women of color bodies, and dismantling the patriarchal capitalist system that seeks to expand the market for fetishized women of color.

“Comfort women” were only unique in name under Japanese imperialism. Militarized sexual violence against women and girls was not unique. Nazi Germany had its own system of over 100 military brothels where soldiers were compelled by the German army to visit weekly in order to fulfill their sexual entitlement.

The forced sexual enslavement of women and girls for the pleasure of men in the military was a political calculation. Empires elevated men’s unfettered sexual appetites over the lives of women and girls in order to pursue a strategy that would strengthen their military capabilities. Kidnapping and detaining hundreds of thousands of women was still only enough to “supply” 1 woman for every 150 soldiers in some places. Creating a state-sanctioned programme that not only imprisoned women, but also reified them as sex slaves gave soldiers license to rape a specifically designated reserve of women. This illicit industry served to curb unsanctioned and uncontained rape cases that threatened to further tarnish the image of imperialist forces.

At the hands of the U.S., prostitution is a vestige of slavery that was sanctioned, normalized, and institutionalized for over 100 years by the War Department/Department of Defense near U.S. bases as a “military necessity.”

In 2018, the Department of Defense’s network was ranked 19th out of almost 3,000 nationwide networks on the amount of peer-to-peer child pornography sharing. In 2019, 75% of the pedophiles arrested for attempting to arrange sex with a child during Hawaiʻi’s first pedophile sting were U.S. military personnel.

Throughout history, the sex trade has fed the expansion of the military industrial complex, and upheld imperialism. That is why we women of AF3IRM recommit ourselves to fighting alongside women in the sex trade who deserve ‘bread and roses’ only found outside of this industry that exists only at the pleasure of the militarized patriarchy.

This Purple Rose Day, we call on you to join us in recognition of the sex trade as a violent industry that perpetuates global violence. Rise Up, Roses Up!