Filipina comfort woman Hilaria Bustamante has passed away at age 97, the group Lila Pilipina has announced.
Bustamante was a member of Lila Pilipina, an organization of Filipino comfort women who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Japanese soldiers in World War II by being captured and forced into sexual slavery.
Bustamante reportedly died of old age, a representative of Lila Pilipina confirmed.
Her passing has come within weeks after the United Nations released their finding that the Philippines failed to provide compensation for these women who were victims at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army.
Just days earlier, comfort women group Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers) also urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to immediately seek reparations from Japan on their behalf, as “many among us are now dead and the few of us remaining do not have long to live. Some of us are already bedridden because we’ve become old, ill or senile,” its group leader, Maria Quilantang Lalu, said.
The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women coincidentally released its finding on International Women’s Day (March 8), saying that the Philippines has failed to provide reparation, social support, and recognition for comfort women, which has led to “ongoing discrimination against them that continues to this day.”
Bustamante, who was 16 years old when Japanese soldiers captured, enslaved, and repeatedly raped her for over a year, was one of “several plaintiffs who sued the Japanese government in 1993 at a Tokyo District Court.”
Although she received a letter of apology from then-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and atonement from the Asian Women’s Fund, she insisted that the Japanese government should offer official compensation to comfort women and issue a formal public apology.
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