The Fallacy of Contract in Sexual Slavery: A Response to Ramseyer's "Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War"

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Michigan Journal of International Law

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Over seven decades have passed since the end of the Second World War, but the trauma from the cruelest war in human history continues today, perpetuated by denial of responsibility for the war crimes committed and unjust attempts to rewrite history at the expense of dignity, life, and justice for the victims of the most serious human rights violations. The latest such attempt is a troubling recharacterization of the sexual slavery enforced by Japan during the Second World War as a legitimate contractual arrangement. A recent paper authored by J. Mark Ramseyer, entitled “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War,” mischaracterizes forced sexual slavery as a contractual process by which the victims freely participated in prostitution in return for a substantial reward, denying the responsibility of the Japanese government and its military for the atrocious human rights violations committed. The argument of that paper is flawed and disregards a breath of evidence, including numerous testimonies of survivors, and the findings of scholars, NGOs, and intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations Human Rights Commission, that the victims were coerced, deceived, or otherwise manipulated into sexual servitude with the direct or indirect involvement of the Japanese government or the military, as admitted by Japan in the 1993 Kono Statement. This article discusses the critical flaws in the arguments advanced by the paper, the traumatic impact of such arguments on survivors of these war crimes, and the broader implications of these (and other similar) justifications for sexual exploitation.

Recommended Citation

Yong-Shik Lee, Natsu T. Saito & Jonathan Todres, The Fallacy of Contract in Sexual Slavery: A Response to Ramseyer's "Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War", 42 Mich. J. Int'l L. 291 (2021)





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