TV & Radio
Congress to hear WW2 sex slaves' testimony
Thu Feb 8, 2007 10:28 PM ET
By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three women who were forced into sexual servitude by Japanese soldiers in World War Two will testify before a U.S. congressional committee next week, the author of a resolution calling on Tokyo to apologize for the practice said on Thursday.
Rep. Michael Honda, a California Democrat who introduced the nonbinding measure on February 1, told reporters he was confident the resolution would pass by the end of March.
"There are parties who are going to be lobbying against the resolution also, but on the whole we're enjoying bipartisan support," said Honda, one of a handful of U.S. lawmakers of Japanese descent.
Honda's resolution calls on the government of Japan to "formally and unambiguously apologize for and acknowledge the tragedy that comfort women endured at the hands of its Imperial Army during World War Two."
"Comfort women" is a Japanese euphemism for the estimated 200,000 women forced to provide sex for Japan's soldiers at battle-zone brothels during World War Two.
Honda said the first step toward passage would be the hearing at the Asia-Pacific subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on February 15.
Witnesses would include experts on the issue and three former comfort women: Koreans Lee Yong-soo and Kim Koon-ja and Jan Ruff O'Herne, a Dutch-born woman who now lives in Australia, said Honda's office.
Asked about the timing of debate that could become an irritant in U.S.-Japan relations ahead of an expected spring visit to Washington by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Honda said that time was running out for the elderly women.
"The urgency is based upon the age of the women who were victims of the policy. Every year these ladies get older and older and they start to die off," he said in a conference call with reporters in Washington.
Japan in 1993 acknowledged a state role in the wartime program and Japanese leaders since 1996 have sent letters of apology to 285 of the women, along with donated funds collected by the government-administered Asian Women's Fund.
U.S. lawmakers introduce resolution urging Japan apology to World War II 'comfort women'
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 8, 2007
U.S. lawmakers have introduced a nonbinding resolution demanding that Japan apologize to thousands of so-called comfort women the Japanese army used as sex slaves during World War II.
The resolution, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Michael Honda, Republican Rep. Christopher Smith and others, calls for Japan's prime minister to "formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner" for the women's ordeal.
A similar resolution asking for an apology for as many as 200,000 women forced to service millions of Japanese soldiers during the war was passed last year by the House of Representatives foreign affairs panel. The Republicans who then controlled Congress never brought it before the House for action.
The Japanese Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tokyo acknowledged in the 1990s that its military set up and ran brothels for its troops. But Japan has rejected most compensation claims, saying they were settled by postwar treaties.
In an interview Thursday, Honda acknowledged that Japan is "very sensitive" to the issue and that Japanese lobbyists in Washington have urged the resolution be dropped, saying it would be bad for U.S.-Japanese relations.
"I'm sure there will be resistance," Honda said. But, he added, "It's a necessary move that the Japanese have to take."
Honda called the resolution "a matter of fundamental justice. These brave women's wounds have been left to fester for over a half-century."
Next week, three comfort women are scheduled to appear at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia.
The current resolution does not recommend that Japan pay reparations to the women. Instead, it urges Japan to accept moral responsibility for the women's misery with an official apology, to refute those who say the sexual enslavement never happened and to educate children about the comfort women's experience.
Unwed partners including same sex couples to get legal status
by Gina Doggett
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Italy unveiled a draft bill that would grant legal status to gay couples after months of debate that has divided the center-left ruling coalition and attracted fierce opposition from the Vatican.
The legislation, one of the coalition's election manifesto promises, would apply to unmarried couples regardless of sexual orientation and even siblings living together, its authors told a news conference following an extraordinary cabinet meeting.
The law, bitterly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, was hotly debated within the government, which includes far-left components as well as centrist Catholics.
"It's the first time in the legislation of our country that people who live together, heterosexual or homosexual, will have their basic rights recognized," Piero Fassino of the Democrats of the Left party told the news conference.
The bill "allows the recognition of the rights of those who live together by making this cohabitation more serene and solid, and at the same time respecting the Italian constitution, which guarantees that the family is founded on marriage," he said.
Equal Rights Minister Barbara Pollastrini, a co-author of the bill, said: "This draft law, which is a mark of respect and coherence, recognises rights but also duties."
She noted "health assistance, the possibility of making decisions in case of the illness or death of a partner, residence permits (and) inheritance rights" as among the most important entitlements of the proposed legislation.
Concerning duties, the bill calls for "the protection of the weaker partner if after three years of living together the relationship breaks up," for example in the case of a rental contract, she said.
While two-thirds of Italians favor the measure, according to a recent poll, the Vatican sees the planned legislation as an attack on the concept of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
To satisfy all components of the ruling coalition, the new legislation will result in far less robust civil unions, or PACS, than those that exist elsewhere in Europe.
"This bill is certainly not a PACS, but it still contains important elements, beginning with the recognition of rights for same-sex couples," said Franco Grillini, a Democrats of the Left lawmaker who is honorary president of Italy's main gay rights association Arcigay.
"It's a first important step towards the recognition of rights that at least 20 countries in Europe introduced long ago," Grillini said in a statement,
However unlike the French PACS, the Italian one will also allow "two brothers or two sisters, a niece and her aunt" to enter into civil unions, Family Minister Rosy Bindi, the bill's other co-author.
In addition to health and social benefits, inheritance entitlements will be assured after partnerships lasting at least nine years, Pollastrini said.
A minimum duration of a union in order for a pension to continue to be paid to a surviving partner has yet to be decided.
Under the law, unmarried gay or heterosexual couples would also be accorded some of the rights enjoyed by conventional couples such as hospital and prison visitation rights.
Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, who heads a small Christian Democrat party in the coalition and has repeatedly spoken out against the bill, did not attend the cabinet meeting.