The Womenfs International Democratic Federation (WIDF) was founded in December 1945 with the aim of preventing the recurrence of war and the resurgence of fascism for the sake of well being of the women and children. Today, it rallies over 600 grassroots organizations of 106 countries. Its president Sylvie Jan, who took part in the 1999 World Conference, said that she was impressed to learn that the anti-bomb movement in Japan and the world was playing a significant role in the current international situation. I am secretary general of the Japan Federation of Womenfs Organizations (Fudanren) and a member of the executive committee of the WIDF and I am very honored to speak here on its behalf.
The UN special session g2000 Womenfs Conferenceh was held in June last year. Since the International Year of Women in 1975, the movement centered on the U.N. for gender equality and the advancement of women has carried as one of its main objectives the establishment of peace. In recent years, however, while the task of the empowering women has been placed at the forefront, other demands including the elimination of nuclear weapons and reduction of military spending, have tended to be toned down. We would say that the NGOs can and should play a bigger role in stressing the need to pursue these tasks.
The gWomenfs World March against Poverty and Violenceh, an NGO initiative deployed on a global scale, was participated in by 6000 organizations from 160 countries, as well as international organizations such as the WIDF, which played an active role in it. Japanese womenfs organizations in particular, called for the elimination of war as the biggest violence against humanity, organized popular actions around the main themes of the prevention of war, elimination of nuclear weapons and protection of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. They were a focus of public attention in the concluding action that took place in New York in October last year.
This year, in Japan, we have launched a campaign called gthe Year of the Constitution of Womenh on the basis of the wide-spread concerted actions consolidated through the process of the Womenfs March, for the establishment of peace in Asia and the world by implementing Article 9 everywhere. We are now working on a campaign to send one million postcards to Prime Minister Koizumi protesting his plan to revise Article 9 of the Constitution. At the present moment, we are focusing our energy on the protest against the new history textbook that glorifies Japanfs aggression and colonial rule of Asian countries and denies the existence of sex slaves made to serve Japanese military. We are also focusing on the protest against the Prime Ministerfs planned visit to Yasukuni Shrine. I am pleased to inform you that these initiatives are supported by the WIDF affiliates in different countries. Please refer to the statement on the history textbook for the gYear of the Constitution of Women.h
On the basis of the decision taken by its executive committee meeting last June, the WIDF sent a letter to the U.N. and the governments of the nuclear powers requesting them to commence international negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons. In order to strengthen grassroots actions organized by the WIDF affiliates around the world in solidarity with this yearfs World Conference, we use the A-bomb photo panels produced by Gensuikyo and the Appeal from Hiroshima and Nagasaki for signature collection. For example, a Palestinian Womenfs organization which is fighting for a peaceful solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the relevant U.N. resolutions has taken up an anti-nuclear campaign saying that gthe use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East will undermine all efforts for peace.h
Today, a wide range of actions aimed at eliminating war and other conflicts whose first victims are women and children are taking place in every corner of the globe, as well as actions against environmental destruction and violations of human rights of women. I believe that the movement for isolating the pro-nuclear forces and eliminating nuclear weapons will be more effective if it succeeds in strengthening the solidarity with these different actions in various fields. It is my resolve to develop the international womenfs movement by working to build more on the advances and achievements of the grassroots actions in different countries. Let us work together.
To achieve peace in the 21st century by making full use of the Constitution, we have launched a campaign to observe the year 2001 as gWomenfs Year of the Constitutionh under the slogan of gLet Article 9 Play Its Role in the 21st Century.h
Now that the call for peaceful settlement of international disputes is becoming a major trend in Asia and the world, the value of the Japanese Constitution that declares renunciation of war and negates the maintenance of war potential as well as the right of belligerency is greater than ever. However, the Japanese government recently approved for use in junior high school a history textbook edited by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, which contradicts the Constitution and the Fundamental Law on Education; the textbook glorifies Japanfs war of aggression and colonial rule over Asian countries and makes no reference to the former gmilitary comfort womenh problem, a violation of womenfs human rights. This has become a diplomatic issue. We can never accept such a textbook to be used in school. In vehement protest against the gSocietyhfs textbook passing the screening, we are developing a movement throughout Japan to prevent the adoption of this textbook by local boards of education.
Many countries, particularly Asian nations, and womenfs organizations at home and abroad have expressed protest and concern about the gSocietyfsh textbook. The World YWCA sent a letter dated June 18 to the Japanese government urging to take sincere attitude in dealing with this problem. The Womenfs International Democratic Federation adopted in the Executive Committee held on June 25 and 26 a resolution expressing solidarity with the Japanese womenfs movement to protest the approval of the gSocietyhfs textbook and to block the textbook in question from entering classrooms.
Counter to the protests at home and abroad, the Koizumi Cabinet rejected requests from South Korea and China for amendments to the gSocietyhfs history textbook. In so doing, it officially recognizes the use of a textbook that distorts Japanfs history in school. Further, it sent a delegation representing ruling parties to South Korea and China to call for their gunderstandingh of the textbook in question. The governmentfs rejection of calls for textbook changes has the same root of the Prime Minister Koizumifs willingness to visit Yasukuni Shrine as a government official and his call for an adverse revision of Article 9 to enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. All these form a dangerous move. It is only natural that the Japanese government has met a severe criticism not only from South Korea and China, but also from other Asian nations and the rest of the world.
What Japan must do is to educate children based on truth and justice, upholding the principle of the Constitution that pledges Japan will never go to war again based on the reflection on Japanfs war of aggression against and colonial rule over Asian nations. We will carry forward the movement to prevent the gSocietyhfs textbook to be selected by local boards of education throughout Japan on the movement. We also emphatically protest the Koizumi Cabinet, which intends to sever the ties between Japan and Asian nations by making Japan ga country that can wage warh again. We will work to broaden solidarity with many organizations and individuals wishing for peace at home and abroad, so that Japan will make full use of Article 9 to become a peaceful nation.
July 18, 2001
Liaison Committee for gThe 2001 Womenfs Year of Constitutionh Campaign