Amnesty International in Australia is covering the web in beautiful butterflies to raise awareness of the comfort women whose ordeal in World War II has not been adequately recognized by the Japanese government. The site, online at www.amnesty.org.au/comfort, invites members of the public to create their own butterfly to send to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as a sign of support for the 200,000 women who wait for an apology and redress. Amnesty butterflies are appearing as avatars on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
The Amnesty International team is using the lead up to August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II, to bring a motion to the Australian government urging Japan to recognise and compensate survivors. The survivors’ chosen symbol is the butterfly, a unique and beautiful creature that has the power to fly above their suffering.
During the war, up to 200,000 women and girls were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military. These women and girls were kept in ‘comfort stations’ in China, Taiwan, Borneo, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Indonesia and many of the Pacific Islands. Women were abducted, deceived or sold by extremely poor parents. The majority of woman were under the age of 20 and some were girls as young as 12. These women and girls were kept for months or years on end. The women who made it home at the end of the war often kept silent about their experiences and suffered severe psychological and emotional trauma. Many survivors died without talking about what happened to them. In recent years, however, a number of women, now very elderly, have courageously been speaking out. They hope that justice can still be achieved in their lifetime.
The Butterfly site was designed by Occur, Sydney.