During the 1942-45 Japanese occupation of the Philippines and other parts of Asia, the Japanese Army established a system of sexual slavery. In the Philippines, more than 1000 women, some of them under-age, were imprisoned as sexual slavery hostages.
On the occasion of the 75-year commemoration of the invasion of the Mapanique district in the northern Philippines, ECCHR together with the Philippine Center for International Law (CenterLaw) submitted a communication to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 25 November 2019. In the communication submitted on behalf of 28 members of the Malaya Lolas, an organization of affected women, ECCHR and CenterLaw argue that the Philippines has the failed in its obligations to provide access to justice and remedies for the women abused in sexual slavery. The communication calls for urgent measures to provide the surviving Malaya Lolas, aged between 75 and 95, with acknowledgement of the crimes committed against them as well as reparations.
The institutionalized system of female wartime slavery established and institutionalized by the Imperial Japanese Army during Second World War resulted in crimes against international law of the time, particularly the 1926 Slavery Convention and the 1933 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women of the Full Age.
While Japan bears responsibility for the commission of these crimes, the communication argues that the Philippines has – by continuously dismissing the survivors' claims – failed to fulfil its obligation under the 1981 CEDAW Convention. After having exhausted all available domestic remedies, the survivors of the Malaya Lolas organization turned to the CEDAW Committee as a last avenue for justice. The Philippines both signed and ratified the CEDAW Convention in 1980/81.
Since 2004, CenterLaw has represented 70 women of the Malaya Lolas, a survivors' organization of the sexual slavery hostages held by the Imperial Japanese Army. Of these 70 women only 28 are still alive. Since the 1990s, the Malaya Lolas have been persistently calling on the Philippine government to support their acknowledgment and reparation claims against Japan. In April 2010, the Philippine Supreme Court turned down the claimants' appeal and in August 2014 denied CenterLaw and ECCHR's additional petitions.
After having exhausted all domestic remedies, ECCHR and CenterLaw brought the Malaya Lolas' case to UN level by presenting an individual complaint to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Violence Against Women and on Contemporary Forms of Slavery in November 2016. Throughout the years, the Philippine government has consistently maintained that reparations have been paid by Japan according to the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and the 1956 Reparations Agreement between the two states, without addressing the particular situation of the Malaya Lolas.