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"What is interesting is, there is no evidence of a single pregnancy.... this poses a serious question of what these comfort ladies were really for or what (birth control) methods were used when the Japanese soldiers slept with them?"

By Peter Korugl

LAE, Papua New Guinea (September 20, 1999 – The National)---Japanese soldiers and their Papua New Guinean helpers took local women as comfort ladies during the World War II, an international symposium of the Pacific War in Papua New Guinea was told.

Women, from the Blackwater Lake area of East Sepik Province, were used as sex slaves by the Japanese soldiers and the local men who were recruited as soldiers and helpers to help the Japanese Imperial Force at the height of the war in PNG, the symposium heard.

University of Papua New Guinea lecturer Kenneth Sumbuk told the symposium at the Australian National University in Canberra at the beginning of this month that there is evidence that young women were used as sex slaves for the duration of the war.

"The Japanese soldiers lined-up young women and picked from them the women they wanted to spend time with," he said.

Mr. Sumbuk said, in a paper he presented to the symposium, that in Govermas village, five women (named) were permanently kept as comfort ladies while another group was kept by the soldiers at Kraimbit village. Of the latter group one was released on August 15, 1945 and is presently living in Wewak.

He said there was one who was kept as a comfort lady in Tungimbit village for a longer period.

Mr. Sumbuk said the Japanese soldiers were not the only ones that had comfort ladies.

He said locals who were enlisted as soldiers and those who were friendly with the Japanese had the privilege of having the services of the comfort ladies.

"These locals were severely punished or even killed after the Japanese army left," Mr. Sumbuk said in his paper.

According to the paper, from 1942 to 1945 the Japanese occupied the top end of Papua New Guinea.

"The Blackwaters Lake area, which has about 11 main villages, were all occupied by the Japanese soldiers, and Govermas village, because of its strategic location, was made the headquarters of the Japanese army.

"There were about 500 men stationed in these villages and they were part of the larger force of at least 20,000 troops that occupied the Wewak area during the war," the paper said.

When the Japanese first arrived, the relationship between the Japanese and the local people was one of hostility, suspicion and uncertainty, the paper said.

"The Japanese initially used force and intimidation to get what they wanted. However, by the end of the war, the relationship was cordial and friendly.

"I learned that most villages had comfort ladies, but did not speak freely of them when probed... I suspect that not all the women that were used as comfort ladies are known.

"There may have been more that no one knows of," Mr. Sumbuk said.

Although this was happening in all the villages in the Blackwaters Lake area, what Mr. Sumbuk found "interesting" was that there was no single pregnancy during the Japanese occupation of the area.

"What is interesting about the whole story of the comfort women is, there is no evidence of a single pregnancy. . . This poses a serious question of what these comfort ladies were really for or what (birth control) methods were used when the Japanese soldiers slept with them?" Mr. Sumbuk stated in his paper.

Mr. Sumbuk is to conduct further research on the comfort women during the war in the Sepik area; but his paper, at the second symposium at ANU, comes at a time when women, identified as comfort ladies in Asian countries, are demanding redress and compensation from the Japanese government for the sexual degradation they suffered at the hands of its soldiers during the war.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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