File Photo taken on Dec. 8, 2017 shows a statue representing the "comfort women" in Manila, the Philippines. (Xinhua/Dong Chengwen)
MANILA, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Philippine women rights groups on Saturday strongly condemned the removal of the "comfort woman" statue in Manila, calling the act "a desecration of Filipino women's dignity."
The seven-feet bronze sculpture, depicting a blindfold, grieving woman in Maria Clara traditional Filipiniana gown and unveiled last December, represents women in the country forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
"This monument is reminder of the Filipino women who were victims of abuses during the occupation of the Japanese forces from 1942-1945. It took a while before they came out into the open to tell their stories," reads the inscription on the monument.
Activists sympathetic to the plight of the former sex slaves said the statue was removed around 8 p.m. (local time) on Friday night, less than five months after it was erected along Roxas Boulevard.
A backhoe is seen at the area where a statue remarking the World War II comfort women used to be in Manila, the Philippines, April 28, 2018. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)
"GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women strongly condemns the removal of the 'comfort woman' statue along Roxas Blvd despite opposition from women's rights advocates, historians and other sectors," said Joms Salvador, GABRIELA secretary general.
"This is a desecration of Filipino women's dignity as it casts a foul insult on hundreds of Filipina sex slaves victimized under the Japanese occupation," said Salvador.
The "comfort woman" statue supposedly serves as a reminder to future generations of Japan's atrocities and abuses against Filipino women during the last world war, and women's historical victimization in times of wars of aggression, she said.
The erection of the statue has angered Japan. Tokyo has protested and demanded that the statue be taken down.
Salvador said GABRIELA will vigorously pursue efforts to expose Japan's sex slavery in the country and other parts of the globe. "Women will persevere in highlighting the horrors of Japanese occupation, no matter how Japan and its puppets try to cover it," she said.
GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women, including the Lila Pilipina (League of Filipino Women), have demanded justice on behalf of the ageing "comfort women" in the Philippines, an official apology from the Japanese government, just compensation, and inclusion of the "comfort women" issue in Japan's historical accounts and textbooks.
Knocking down the statue would be a setback in the long struggle for justice of "comfort women", the groups said.
It's estimated that at least 200,000 women in their teens from Asian countries including South Korea, China, Indonesia and the Philippines, were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.