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12/09/2014 | 09:00 AM | Max-Planck-Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, X-house, Mittermaier¬straße31, Heidelberg, 1. Floor, Room 1.110

Wartime Gender Violence: Japan and the Military Enslavement of Women in World War II

The workshop on modes of coming to terms with Military Violence against Women in War  aims to investigate how gender related crimes against women in war-time have been and are being dealt with. The workshop combines a historical perspective with an analysis of the current state of international law, drawing on a particular example.

The historical starting point will be the widespread and systematic sexual enslavement of women (so-called “comfort women”) that took place in the territories occupied by Japan during World War II. Professor Yuki Tanaka, an eminent expert in the field, will present the results of his research on the historical facts, but will also address the question how these crimes have been dealt with in Japan and internationally.

In a second part, the workshop will focus on international law on gender-related crimes, past and present. Dr. Suzannah Linton will give an introduction to the law and will also address the difficulties in obtaining genuine redress in the ‘ordinary’ situation, and in the matter of the so-called ‘comfort women’.

One of the aims of this interdisciplinary approach and discussion is to consider how it would be possible to utilize the existing international legal framework to assist victims of sexual war crimes, in particular former comfort women, who are seeking proper redress as the victims of Japanese war crimes.



9.00 – 9.10        Welcome and short Introduction

9.15 – 10.00      Talk by Yuki Tanaka:  'Continuing Denial of the Victimization of Women: Japan's military sex slaves in World War II'

10.00 – 10.45    Discussion (Input by organizers, research group members and participants)

10.45 -  11.00    Break

11.00 – 11.45    Talk by Suzannah Linton ‘International Law and Gender Violence, then and now’

11.45 – 13.00    Discussion (Input by organizers, research group members and participants)



Please register with Dr. Christian Marxsen ( until 1 December 2014.


The participants are asked to prepare the following readings which will be distributed upon registration:

·       Yuki Tanaka, Japan's Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution During World War II and the US Occupation, London and New York: Routledge, 2002, Epilog.

·       Yuki Tanaka, yet unpublished article on the Japanese political and legal treatment of the victims of the “comfort women” system, working title: 'A Critique of Prime Minister Abe's Policy on the "Comfort Women" Issue and Japan's Social Formation of Hegemonic Masculinity.'

·       Appendix to UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/1998/13, 22 June 1998,  Report of the Special Rapporteur on systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during armed conflict (Appendix entitled ‘An analysis of the legal liability of the Government of Japan for “comfort women stations”).

Short Bios of Speakers

Professor Yuki Tanaka is Research Professor of History at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City University. In 2008, he was Visiting Professor at Birkbeck College, the University of London and the Sir Ninian Stephen Visiting Scholar at the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law at The University of Melbourne. Professor Tanaka is an acknowledged international expert on the history of Japanese war crimes during World War II. His two books, Japan’s Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the US Occupation (Routledge, 2002) and Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II (Westview Press, 1996) both remain seminal works in English. The latter volume provided extensive background material for a BBC documentary series entitled ‘Horror in the East’ produced in 2000. He has also published many books and articles in Japanese, including SoranoSenso-Shi (A History of Aerial Warfare) (Kodansha, 2008). In 2009, he co-edited the book (together with Marilyn Young), Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History (New Press, 2009), and in 2011, co-edited another book (with Tim McCormack and Gerry Simpson), Beyond Victor’s Justice?: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Revisited (MartinusNijhoff Publishers, 2011).


Dr. Suzannah Linton currently is a Fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg. She has been Chair of International Law at Bangor University in the UK, and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong. Dr. Linton worked on the Erdemović, Dokmanović, Furundžija, Kunarac, Kupreškic and Tadić cases at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as Law Clerk to judges Antonio Cassese and Florence Mumba. She was Legal Advisor on International Law to the Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of East Timor, contributing to the Report (Chega!) including the chapter on sexual violence. She has also been a Prosecutor for Serious Crimes in East Timor, and a consultant to the United Nations in Cambodia. Among her recently published works are General Principles and Rules of International Criminal Procedure (co-edited; Oxford University Press 2013) and Hong Kong’s War Crimes Trials (Oxford University Press 2013).


Contact Person

Dr. Christian Marxsen

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