On 23 November 1944, Japanese troops invaded the district of Mapanique, Candaba in the Philippines. After torturing and killing many inhabitants, the soldiers forced the women and girls to march towards the “Bahay Na Pula” (Red House), the Japanese headquarters. There, the soldiers for weeks repeatedly beat, raped and abused them. Sexual slavery facilities like the Bahay Na Pula had been established all over the Philippines as well as in other countries occupied by Japan during the Second World War.
The survivors of these horrific crimes call themselves the “Malaya Lolas” (Free Grandmothers) and have been actively requesting their government for assistance to file a claim for reparations against Japan
since 1998. To date, however, Philippine officials have refused to do so. While concerning acts of sexualized violence that happened many decades ago, the Malaya Lolas’ denial of justice has proven to be emblematic for so many other current cases of crimes perpetrated against women in armed conflicts in which high levels of impunity continue to persist.
More than 70 years after the atrocities they suffered, many Malaya Lolas have passed away. The few that remain, however, continue to fight to see justice in their lifetime. The Center for International Law Manila (CenterLaw)
and the Berlin-based ECCHR
are now taking their claim to the UN level.
Supported by the Bertha Foundation
, survivors, legal representatives and activists will present the Malaya Lolas’ ongoing search for justice at the Right Livelihood Award Foundation: Isabelita Vinuya
is the President of the Malaya Lolas and the lead petitioner in the case in the Philippines. Romel Bagares
is CenterLaw’s Executive Director and has been representing the Malaya Lolas in the Philippines since 2004. Aileen Reyes Garcia
is CenterLaw’s Program Officer and has been accompanying the Malaya Lolas during their political activities in the Philippines. Andreas Schüller
heads the International Crimes & Accountability program at ECCHR. Alejandra Muñoz
is a legal advisor at ECCHR. Her work focuses mainly on sexualized violence in conflict situations.