A recently erected memorial dedicated to Philippines "comfort women" was taken down from a thoroughfare in Manila, Philippines Friday after facing significant criticism from Japan.
The bronze statue of a blindfolded Filipino woman, erected in December, was removed from Roxas Boulevard in Manila. The term "comfort women" refers to the women and girls, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during World War II, and is commonly seen as a genteelism for describing sex slaves.
Per the Japanese Embassy in Manila, the Philippine government notified it before removing the statue. Japanese officials have expressed concern over the controversial subject of "comfort women" as many such statues have sprung up in South Korea, and the United States, to remember a historic aspect of Japan that it is not proud of.
In January, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda visited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to express displeasure over the memorial.
Members of a leftist women's rights group, GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women, cultural group Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran (Unity for Progress) , expressed Wednesday their opposition to removing the statue, as the groups vowed to write to Duterte over the issue.
"The Philippines needs to have a national policy on these women's quest for justice. We lack a concrete and clear policy on this," Joms Salvador, the secretary general of GABRIELA Alliance of Women, told Xinhua News, in January.
Duterte also mentioned in January that he couldn't curtail the freedom of expression of the groups who petitioned for the statue to be erected. However, Duterte's Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said the Philippines cannot strengthen its relationship with Japan if it keeps inflaming a matter that is considered "settled."
A Filipino-Chinese association and women's rights group, with the approval of the National Historical Commission, erected the seven-foot bronze monument last December to pay tribute to the more than 1,000 Filipino comfort women during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s.