Sexualities on the home front and the battlefront
While the military managed the sexuality of soldiers through the military brothels, the sexuality of men and women on the home front in Japan was also being managed. Patriotic women’s organisations forged a relationship between the departing soldiers and the real and surrogate mothers who bade them farewell as they departed for the front or mourned those who failed to return. Young women sent the soldiers ‘care packages’ (imonbukuro) containing gifts, letters and photographs. These were tokens of a chaste and pure relationship between the young soldiers and the members of the Young Women’s Associations. Women on the home front were enjoined to be chaste before marriage and to engage in reproductive sexuality on marriage in order to reproduce future soldiers and workers. Patriotic women’s organisations promoted a nationalist form of femininity in wartime campaigns against permanent waves or other forms of ‘Western’ adornment, and they policed unseemly sexual behaviour. The preservation of women’s chastity, purity and fidelity was part of a gendered division of wartime labour, with men’s military activity being justified on the grounds that they were protecting the faithful women on the home front. Dichotomies thus developed between those women who were seen as ‘proper’ married women and those whose bodies were used by soldiers as a sexual outlet. It was often colonised women or women in occupied territories who were seen to be suitable for non-procreative sexual activity.
The wartime Japanese government encouraged procreation at home and discouraged birth control. In the 1920s and 1930s, socialists, feminists and progressive Christian thinkers had argued for reproduction by choice. In 1937, however, Ishimoto [Kato] Shidzue (1897—2001) was arrested for her promotion of birth control. Abortion was allowed on mainly eugenic grounds. The National Eugenics Law (Kokumin yiisei ho) of 1940 was followed by the ‘Outline for Establishing Population Growth Policy’ (Jinko seisaku kakuritsu yoko) in 1941. This policy, administered by the newly established Ministry of Welfare, allowed for the sterilisation of those suffering from hereditary diseases, and the prohibition of the practice of birth control by healthy couples. Women received awards for producing large numbers of children (Miyake 1991: 278). The slogan ‘umeyo fuyaseyo’ (bear more children and multiply) enjoined women to produce more children and also to take part in productive activities (Mackie 2003: 99—112).
At the end of the war, Japan was subjected to occupation by the Allies from 1945 to 1952, and the United Nations War Crimes Commission set up the International Military Tribunal of the Far East (the ‘Tokyo Trials’). Although rape was explicitly included as a crime in the Tokyo Indictment, it was not enumerated as a crime against humanity or a war crime in the Tokyo Charter and no victims were called to testify. Moreover, sexual enslavement and forced prostitution were barely even mentioned during the trial, despite the extensive knowledge and documentation of these crimes. Charges were, however, brought against defendants for war crimes committed during the Nanjing invasion under the 1907 Hague Convention IV and the 1929 Geneva Convention. The story of the Nanjing Massacre was made known to the world through the Tokyo proceedings as witnesses gave evidence of the atrocities perpetrated during the six-week invasion of the city. There were, however, no prosecutions in Tokyo for the sexual enslavement of women in the military brothels (Henry 2013: 362—80), although this issue was mentioned in some of the other regional tribunals.