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The Allied victory in the Second World War was a turning point for women’s rights in

contemporary history. Though the women’s rights movement had been in full swing for roughly

a century up until the start of the war, the devastation wrought unto civilian populations, and

contributions by women to the defense of their countries, firmly ingrained into the collective

consciousness the need to recognize and protect universal human rights, and recognize women

as equal to men in those rights. The war did not bring immediate change for the wellbeing of

women, however the war did bring the issue of universal human rights to the forefront of

international politics, and this attention to human rights bolstered the strength and confidence of

women’s rights advocates in the coming decades. This thesis takes an Asian perspective to the

war’s involvement in the struggle for women’s rights, in China, India, and Japan, and how the

war shaped feminist movements and the political perspective of women.


Table of Contents





Table of Contents




Chapter 1: Historical Background of the Women’s Rights Dialogue in China, India, and Japan



Women’s Consciousness in China


Women’s Nationalism in India


Chapter 2: China, India, and Japan, and the Foundation of Human Rights


China and India and the Drafting of Human Rights


Human Rights and Women’s Rights


Japan and the Rise of Human Rights


Chapter 3: World War II: An Agent Toward the Emancipation of Women


Second Sino-Japanese War in China: Fighters and Slaves


Japan, Patriarchal Idealism, and Maternal Feminism


Women in the Raj







After the Second World War, in 1948, the representatives of the victorious United

Nations of the Allied powers deliberated the international codification of human rights. Though

previous conferences in international bodies had discussed the conduct of warfare and

international politics, this was the first time international bodies discussed what rights human

beings were entitled to regardless of race, sex, religion, nationality, and other backgrounds.

Before, the marginalization of minorities was perceived as a sovereign right, and in many cases

a traditional heritage. This was the case for women in most, if not all, cultures around the world,

and no major event challenged this status quo quite like the Second World War did.


This thesis is about the Second World War’s role as an agent towards the progression of

women’s rights, in particular in China, India, and Japan. The reason I have chosen to focus on

the progression of women’s rights is because women have consistently been a marginalized

demographic for most societies throughout most of human history, with their progression of

rights coming into the 21st century being a considerable development compared to any other

time in history. My decision to choose China, India, and Japan as case studies rather than

European nations or the United States is to not only bring forth an Eastern perspective to a

usually Western discussion, but to also present experiences that are surprisingly familiar, if

unknown, to many in the West. Despite the cultural differences between countries, the Eastern

experiences prove the merit of the word “universal” in “universal human rights”. The Women’s

Rights Movement was just as much a major development in Asia as it was in Europe, the

Second World War ravaged Asia as much as it did Europe, and Asia participated just as much

in the drafting of human rights as Europe had. A common struggle brought forth international

dialogue that had not previously existed before, not even during the Paris peace conference.

It is not that World War II ended human rights violations, or was even fought over human

rights violations. What this most brutal war did was make human rights an international concern,

and human rights abuses a justification to antagonize abusive regimes. It also made proponents

for human rights more conscious and confident about their causes, as rights advocates pushed

harder for anti-chauvinist policies rather than retreat. Not only did the war influence the global

legal approach to human rights, but also the cultural approach to human rights. Some rights for

previously marginalized demographics have secured themselves into tradition after generations

of acceptance, such as the right to vote and the right to work, and while it is false to claim that

races and genders are treated fully equally today, in Europe and America suggesting the

dissolution of women’s rights earns considerable ire compared to previous points in history. The

cultural environment also became tame enough for women with tragic experiences from the

war, or their descendants, to appeal to courts about wartime abuses against them with greater


confidence that they would less likely be humiliated, when even in the interwar period reporting

an abuse may as well have been as dangerous as the abuse itself.

The thesis covers three chapters. The first chapter discusses the historical backgrounds

behind the Women’s Rights movements in China, India, and Japan, from the 19th century

leading up to the Second World War, describing the political atmosphere and the status of the

Women’s Rights movement by the 1930s in each of these three countries. The second chapter

skips over to past the war with the drafting of the Declaration of Human Rights, discussing

China and India’s contributions primarily, and describing Japan’s position in relation to human

rights during the early post-war period. Finally in the third chapter we return to the war itself, with

the existing political climate in mind as well as the priorities of the DHR drafters after the war


This thesis is one perspective on how far human conflict went for human rights to even

be considered as an international concern. The current political climate and the rise of

reactionary elements that wish to blame human rights for comparably small inconveniences

make it necessary to remember what moral lessons we as a species learned from the Second

World War without repeating the same tragedies, lessons such as how unfounded social

stratification around arbitrary characteristics is even during a time of crisis.

Chapter 1

Historical Background of the Women’s Rights Dialogue in China, India, and Japan

Just as in the West, the rights of women became greatly topical in Asia in the early 20th

century. Centuries of absolutism and millenia of feudalism had come to an end by the turn of the

century in many parts of Asia, as these countries drafted constitutions, empowered

parliamentary bodies, and saw the average standard of living and literacy elevate in the wake of

industrialization. The Asian nations were facing the same problems and asking the same

questions as the West, now that information, especially the philosophies of progressive thinkers,


was much more accessible across the world. What rights were men entitled to? These

developments that would affect the men of Asia would also affect the women as well. More

women were able to go to school, and even become self employed. Yet the elevation of

women’s rights remained at best a reluctant advancement, unhelped by the strenuous

circumstances of China, Japan, and the former British Raj, and the sickly economic environment

of the interwar period. This chapter will contextualize the ethos’ of women’s rights, but also the

development of these same rights leading up to World War Two.





The fastest way to introduce the circumstances of China, Japan, and India before the

war that would influence the rise of the rights of women would be to address China’s political

turmoil after its republican revolution in 1911, Japan’s conservatism and rise of the military class

in 1927, and India’s status as a British colony and complicated independence movement. As

social pressures were driving the push towards equality between the sexes as there were

hindering its progress. Local cultural pressures also influenced not only how these societies

would react to women’s rights advocacy, also how the women’s rights movements themselves

would behave.

Just as in the West, “personhood” became a foundational topic for liberalism in Asia. The

agreement between each of the three cultures was the recognition that personhood needed to

be made an integral part of society and law, and women would need to be recognized as

“persons before the law”. Education was commonly perceived as one of the main solutions for

women’s lack of personhood within their societies. Though China, India, and Japan had long

standing traditions of science, arts, and philosophy, these intellectual endeavours discriminated

based on class, heredity, and sex, as were the same in the West. Like the West, the

introduction of new educational institutions such as public education, vocational schools, and

universities provided new opportunities for not only women but also men of lower social

statuses to elevate themselves in the eyes of the public. Women’s rights advocates knew that

for women to become equal to men they could not be disadvantaged by ignorance. Of course,


along similar lines as education, political rights were advocated. Women needed to actively

participate in the governments of their own societies to be empowered, and the

enfranchisement of women in political decision making, and the dismantlement of discriminatory


Much of the rights advocacy before World War Two, like in Europe, centered around

enfranchisement, and opposed existing legal structures. After World War One, efforts to

dismantle discriminatory social institutions would start budding, but would only really take full

steam after World War Two. Not many advocacy groups concerned themselves with gender

roles the way second-generation feminists would, and in China, India, and Japan the issue of

gender stereotypes and the enforcement of discriminatory extralegal social practices remain

issues in the 21st century. World War Two would highlight the roots of some of these early

movements, as the war forced more women into otherwise typically masculine environments.

However the intention initially was not to achieve a society where men and women could

individually be interchangeable in most situations in society, mostly because there was minimal

consideration for the idea. 1920’s Japan would see some of the earliest organized women’s

movements challenging extralegal social norms.

Finally, the last consideration for feminism in Asia is the participation of men. Every early

20th century feminist movement was supported by at least some men, however the divisions

between men and women in China, India, and Japan were perceived as more social than

biological. As a result that was significant male sponsorship for women’s rights, and intergender

dialogue helped bolster male appeal to women’s rights. This is not so much as to suggest Asian

feminism saw more male support than Western feminism, but more to suggest that social

stigmas that were common in the West against male support for women’s rights were much less

prevalent in Asia.





Suffragette Movement in Japan






Japan was the first Asian country to industrialize, and likewise the first in Asia to

incorporate Western educational advancements, including the development of a public school

system, and an education system dedicated to hard and soft scientific pursuits. Through this

education Japanese women would try to push for their rights. In the late 19th century, most

early Japanese feminists subscribed to the idea that education was the only way for women to


prove their own worthiness for rights , as improved education would improve women’s


subjectivity . By this time the new Meiji government, the Emperor’s regime that replaced the

previous military government, had already established a rudimentary public school system, with

some secondary educational institutions. Women’s education had already been vaguely

introduced by foreign missionaries who taught girls at the request of Japanese noblemen. The

Meiji government began to establish women’s institutions in the early 1870s, and the members


of the government and the Emperor himself expressed interest in the education of women .

Early Japanese education was nonetheless segregated, and in 1891 the Ministry of Education


enforced a segregation clause for girls and boys past the third grade . This segregation was not

challenged by many feminists outside groups who supported more immediate pushes for

women’s political participation and rights. The effectiveness of the existing educational structure

was of greater concern than revolutionary decisions to promote coeducational environments.

Women needed to become leaders through example, assuming existing gender roles just with

more controlling rather than submissive attitudes. This was a popular, though not universal,

belief of the time, and as mentioned before other feminists saw greater urgency in winning

political rights for women, and later even dismantling discriminatory institutions.

1 “Others, inspired by John Stuart Mill, stressed improved education as a way for women to gain the subjectivity that would make them eligible for rights” (Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 643)

2 "’Subjectivity’ refers here to personhood endowed with the ability to think, feel, and reason, accompanied by some degree of individual agency” (Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 643)

3 “‘Females hitherto have had no position socially, because it was considered that they were without

understanding; but if educated and intelligent they should have due respect’” [Meiji Emperor] (Margaret, Education of Women in Japan,45)

4 “The instructions of the Ministry of Education stated: ‘

education as our national custom demands, the policy of separating boys from girls in class is hereby adopted…’” (Koyama, The Changing Social Position of Women in Japan, 18)


the necessity of sex segregation in


In the political participation camp, contemporary writer Shimizu Tomoko argued “Women

needed to be citizens, to have the right of participation, because they should educate their


children as citizens and support their husbands in the exercise of their citizenship” . Even then,

Tomoko did not advocate total political rights for all individuals based on their personhood, as

she “posited in 1890 that women’s political rights arose from their relationship with those who

had (some) rights”, and that “rights were relational, not social” 5 . Later movements, such as by

the New Women Association or NWA, lobbied more for universal rights after addressing

state-protected sexual abuse, first starting in the 1910’s to secure divorce rights and protection


from sexually transmitted diseases . Further pushes were made to amend the Public Peace

Police Law’s Article Five which “prohibited women’s membership in political parties as well as

attendance at political meetings and rallies” 6 were made by NWA leaders Hiratsuka Raichō,

Ichikawa Fusae, and Oku Mumeo. Later, Raichō, Fusae, and Mumeo petitioned on January 6,

1920 equal citizenship and inclusion in the state under recognition of the Public Peace Police

Law . The petition, and similar calls for political and social rights, were shot down in the Diet ,



however in July 1920 after receiving the NWA’s petition, Representative Tabuchi Toyokichi

supported the removal of the word “women” from Article Five, saying “Although I do not

advocate giving women complete suffrage at this time, women are also human beings who have

a right to free speech

I believe we must exercise the basic premise of ‘democracy’ which

fosters concepts of equality and support for the weak… I urge you not to derive pleasure from


oppressing the weak, but to work for the thirty million [women] subjects of Japan” . Despite

ambitions to secure rights, the feminist movement was greatly divided. There were

disagreements between Hiratsuka Raicho and Ichikawa Fusae over the goal for mothers’ rights

(disregarding non-married women) and women’s rights respectively. The introduction of the


socialist feminists would further convolute the movement . Opinions on what rights were

5 Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 644

6 Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 646

7 Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 647

8 Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 650

9 Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 649 10 Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 652


enough remained controversial, as for some social and political freedoms were a means to an


end leading to better livelihoods, while for others the freedoms were the end .

Hiratsuka Raichō’s philosophy was bokenshugi, the principle of mothers’ rights, differed


from Ichikawa Fusae’s philosophy of jokenshugi,principle of women’s rights . Ichikawa

challenged the idea that women’s rights could not be won through education alone, as by the

1920’s Japanese women were already enjoying a high literacy rate without any real success at

winning political rights. She also criticized that men also did not need the same level of

education to achieve political rights, leading to the conclusion that education, though desirable,


was effectively redundant in the existing system , and that only absolute rights based on

equality could succeed. Hiratsuka maintained social distinctions between men and women,

positing that their social roles should exercise equivalent magnitudes of responsibility, and

cooperate harmoniously, while women still fundamentally being different from men. Maternal

protection, protection of mothers from abuse from their husbands, were of greater importance to


Hiratsuka over general rights, not even raising the issue of voting rights unlike Ichikawa .

Ichikawa on the otherland advocated equal rights even beyond just political rights. 1927 marked

the start of Japanese militarism, after Emperor Taisho death in 1926 and a coincidental

depression in 1927 lead to ambitions by the military to assume control, and pressure to maintain

traditionalist attitudes towards women’s rights grew. In 1931, cabinet under Hamaguchi Osachi

sponsored a limited suffrage bill that would grant women’s rights to vote up to at most a


municipal level, at least at age 25, and with permission from their husbands , which was shot

down by the House of Peers

16 for being too liberal. After the Manchurian incident in 1931,

11 Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 651

12 Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 652

13 “Women had not earned equality by gaining subjectivity through education, Ichikawa argued. What women did- that is, cultivating themselves through education or fulfilling maternal roles - was still not enough to achieve rights” (Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925,"


14 Molony, "Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925," 646.

15 Nolte, “Women’s Rights and Society’s Needs: Japan’s 1931 Suffrage Bill,” 690-691.

16 The House of Peers is the upper house of the Japanese Imperial administration.


further talk of rights was hushed to prioritize resources towards the preparation of a war


* *



Women’s Consciousness in China

* *



A Confucian tradition is what Japan inherited from China, and just as well the patriarchy

was a mandatory social institution for much of China’s history. Culturally, women’s position

rooted in the yin and yan dichotomy. Yin elements, feminine in nature, are “dark, weak, and


passive” contrasting the strong and bright masculine yan elements . According to the Book of

Changes,“Great Righteousness is shown in that man and woman occupy their correct places;

the relative positions of Heaven and Earth”17 . Women, excluding cases so exceptional even by

Japanese or Indian standards, were exempt from all public affairs in both public and private

settings. Socially, girls in the family were treated as liabilities compared to sons. The expectation

was that the son would provide for his father's, while the daughter was married off and severed

all ties with her parents. Feminism in the early 20th century had to combat these cultural

restraints, and was helped by the revolutionary fervor of the period after the Empire and other

Confucian institutions ceased.

The drive to elevate women’s rights in the modern age started with the Taiping Rebellion

(1850-1871), among rebel forces. The southern Chinese rebels largely had peasant

backgrounds, and the rebellion challenged the economic failure of the Qing Empire, advocating


land redistribution and communal property rights, and equality between the sexes . Within the

rebellion, of course, total equality was not achieved, and rights were inconsistent throughout the

rebellion empire due to corruption and conflicting interests between Taiping leaders. However a

rapid elevation of rights was achieved in some places, when women were permitted to take

exams and hold public office. As the war raged women were also found performing combat

duties, and most public institutions were desegregated, though combat units remained

17 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,24.

18 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,51.


segregated. August Frederick Lindley, a British volunteer to the Taiping Army

19 whose wife

Marie a sniper as well in the Taiping Army, described “the open presence, the free intercourse

and elevated position of the women in the Taiping-occupied Nanking” 18 . Hong Xuanjiao, sister

of Heavenly King Hong Xiuquan, assumed supreme command over the women’s corps, and by


1853 the Taiping fielded one hundred thousand women soldiers divided among forty armies .

Later in the war the egalitarian system collapsed on itself, with even the Heavenly King

reminding his empire’s women:

“Women in the rear palaces should not try to leave; If they should try to leave it would be

like hens trying to crow. The duty of the palace women is to attend to the needs of their

husbands; And it is arranged by Heaven that they are not to learn of the affairs outside” 21

Total war created a limited instance where women were equal to men in Chinese society, and

Chinese culture caught up to the war as it waged for decades to return women to their

traditional roles. Despite the laws, women also faced sexual abuse during the rebellion. The

rebellion however finally legitimized women’s rights and equality to men as a revolutionary

concept, and attempts to try again later were inevitable following the 1911 revolution that

toppled the Qing Empire.

Revolutionary anti-Manchu fervor, xenophobia against domineering European powers,

and industrialization strengthened anti-traditionalist sentiments among women and men alike.

Women’s illiteracy and practices like footbinding were turned into national shames, being


blamed for contributing to China’s lack of respect on the world’s stage . Kang Yuwei, leader of

the reform movement in the late 19th century, even postulated that Chinese children were less

fit compared to Western children due to the physical consequences of footbinding on Chinese

women and mental consequences of denied education. Yuan Shikai described China’s

intellectual unfitness compared to the West, attributing China’s previous success to scientific

prowess and supporting that as a result women’s education was a necessity. This early

19 The British government openly supported the Qing government against the Taiping.

20 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,51-52.

21 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,52.

22 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,57.


discussion to raise women’s rights was not meant to be total, as women were still expected to

observe roles as mothers and husbands.

Like in Japan, education became another means by which women hoped to elevate their

statuses in China. Unlike in Japan, the situation for women in China was desperate enough for

the mere act of going to school was an achievement, as early and rather unsuccessful


European treaty-port schools opened after the Opium War to poor female students . These

schools were met with ridicule, as were the students. Eventually these schools became popular

among noblemen to send their daughters to. Not too soon after Chinese-hosted girls schools

were established, and by the end of the 19th century the Qing government invested in further


expansion on these schools . Girls schools lead to women's schools. Schools provided women

opportunities to leave the house, some assuming teaching careers, and also provided spaces

for dialogue about the woman’s position in society. These schools were set up to train women

for household duties, however many women saw the opportunity to network and boost

consciousness about their personhoods through the formation of societies. The Chinese

Women’s Journalcompiled tabloids about the lives of the emancipated women who wrote them.

Jiu Jim, one of the publishers of the journal along with Xu Zihua, justified their journal:

“We want to unite our two hundred million sisters into a solid whole, so they can call to

each other. Our journal will act as a mouthpiece for our women. It is meant to help our

sisters by giving their life deeper meaning and hope, and to advance rapidly towards a

bright new society. We Chinese women should become the vanguard in arousing women

to welcome enlightenment.” 25

Rebellious attitudes towards the social order were extremely rare, and many women of

these women’s societies still largely bent knee to the traditions, elevating themselves

more on par with Japanese women in Meiji Japan. These women’s societies also


nurtured nationalist sentiments, organizing patriotic discussions and demonstrations .

23 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,54.

24 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,63.

25 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,70.

26 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,72.


They also showed support for the revolutionaries in 1911 though political, material, and

manpower support. Scenes on Sun Yat Sen’s 1911 Revolution were reminiscent of those

in the Taiping rebellion, with women even assuming combat duties:

“We heard for instance, of regiments of Chinese women getting measured for mens

uniforms and going up to fight at Nanking and Hankou. We heard of turbulent crowds of

women in enthusiastic meetings flinging their jewellery on the platform for the warchest of

the revolutionary cause; we heard of women bomb throwers, of women spies, of women

members of the Dare to Die corps and of a dozen other picturesque and spirited

activities.” 27

Following the 1911 revolution and collapse of the Qing Empire, women’s societies then

began to push for political rights. They advocated for a democratic China following along the


Anglo-Saxon model, where women could vote and hold public office . The early republic

however ran mostly as a dictatorship under Yuan Shikai, the former Qing reformer who

advocated the expansion of women’s education in the late 19th century. Rights dialogue was


stifled, and traditions were still strictly enforced .

Inspired by British suffragettes, a locally famous women’s rights advocate Tang Yunying

established the Chinese Suffragette society in Beijing, demanding “education for women,

abolition of footbinding, prohibition of concubinage, child marriages and prostitution, social

services for women in industry, encouragement of modesty in dress, introduction of better terms

of marriage, establishment of political rights, and overall elevation of the position of women

within the family”.

30 Straying from traditional norms bolstered publicity, and other similar

27 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,76.

28 “The collapse of the Manchu dynasty in the revolution of 1911 made way for a new form of government based on a constitution which attempted to introduce Anglo-Saxon democratic practices. Arrangements were made for Sun Yat-Sen to be the new President of the Republic and to elect a new National Provisional Assembly to sit in Nanking. Many women began to form organisations to assert the rights of women to elect and be elected as representatives to the new National and Provisional Assemblies” (Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China, 82)

29 “Reported in the North China Herald in 1912: A girl about to elope with a militiaman near Canton was arrested and publicly executed as a lesson to her peers. It was said that this was an example of the wild notions held by some Chinese women who had misinterpreted the new freedoms supported by the new Republic. These did not include the personal freedom to do what they like” (Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,88)

30 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China,83.


institutions popped all over China, diverse in their goals. Some advocated for the right to vote,

while others remained more limited, advocating just for education or work rights, with divides

forming between feminists movements over matters like wealth differences and openness to

Western culture. Into the 1920’s, after the May 4th demonstrations in 1919 that challenged the

lack of real democracy in the new Republic, later movements pushed for further political and

civil rights for women, the media as an indispensable tool. Independent journals and tabloids

laid clear what rights their women writers demanded, such as Girls Daily, Women’s Bell, and

New Woman.New Womanmade demands for the removal of “all obstacles which hinder the


new woman from self-realisation.” Journals like The Revolution in Thoughtdenounced the old

Confucian order, with this specific journal introducing to its readers Nietzsche’s theory of

reevaluation to criticize their home institutions.

32 Traditional values were in full conflict with

active defiance, as women refused to marry, took up intellectual pursuits, engaged in mass

demonstrations, and cooperated with Western feminist movements. While Japan was becoming

a more prominent threat to China, nationalism was also feminized, as women feared that the

sovereignty they could tediously achieve in China would not be possible under a Japanese


hegemon .

The Russian revolution bolstered the popularity of Marxist and Leninist philosophies, as

observers saw the institution of gender segregation established in early Communist Russia.

Chinese socialists, establishing the Chinese Communist Party which was initially an ally of Sun

Yat Sen’s Kuomintang (KMT, or GMD) party, made the equality between the sexes a paramount


issue in its First Manifesto on the Current Situation in China of 1922 . The KMT party in the

mid-20’s before the split and civil war in 1927 made more concessions to further improve

women’s sovereignty, electing some women like activists He Xiangning and Song Qingling into

31 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China, 96.

32 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China, 97.

33 “Dear compatriots, everyone must awaken to the fact that China is about to be lost and we shall become enslaved just as happened to the Koreans, and our women will suffer extreme humiliation. Taiwan is another example [of Japanese colonialism]. Let us all be aware of China’s predicament and support native products.” (Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China, 107)

34 Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China, 130.


the Central Executive Committee, and issued proclamations in the National Party Congress of

1924 that granted women freedom over their marriage, property rights, and equality clauses for

labour laws. Many of these efforts would devolve during the civil war, after Chiang Kai Shek

antagonized communism after expressing distrust over the Soviet Union’s aide to the KMT.





Women’s Nationalism in India





India became a formal colony of the British empire in 1858 after the Sepoy Rebellion,

when the British crown confiscated control over the subcontinent from the British East India

Company. For about two centuries previously, the regions of India such as Tamil Nadu and

Bengal were under corporate rule of the British East India Company. Other regions were under

the influence of the waning Maratha Empire of central India and rising Punjab Empire of

northwestern India. An “enlightenment”, using the word similarly as to describe the European

Enlightenment, was budding in population centers around India, however the rights of women

wouldn’t be discussed until not long before the Rebellion.

35 Prior, the Company had largely

ignored the local Hindu and Muslim traditions, and legal affairs were largely under princely

authority until the late 18th century with the establishment of supreme courts situated in the

largest cities under Company control. While the Company consolidated more power into the

19th century, it ran parallel to a Bengal Renaissance development that was catalyzed by the

dialogue between Bengali and British scholars in the late 18th century. Scholars including Ram

Mohan Roy and Dadabhai Naoroji advocated for the abolishment of the caste system and

lobbied for equal rights for men and women

36 through constitutionalism and furthered education



. The first right demanded was the abolishment of sati

through the middle of the 19th century,

35 By this point, the Company controlled most of the major population centers in India around the Ganges river and the Deccan Peninsula, with the Marathas and Mughals a distant memory and Punjab a waning empire.

36 (Manish, Rajagopalan, Sutter, and White, “Liberalism in India,” 433)

37 “As far as we know, the importance of educating women was first discussed publicly in Bengal by the Atmiya Sabha, founded by Ram Mohan Roy in 1815” (Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 8)


the practice of cremating a widowed wife alive with her deceased husband, though sati had

been a controversial subject since the first Muslim invasions into India. Controversy continued

with British rule, as the British considered satito be barbaric, yet were not willing to risk inciting

Hindu unrest with an outright ban until local Indians supported the ban. Mrityunjaya

Vidyalamkara, Chief Pundit of the Supreme Court, stated in 1817 that satihad no shastric, or


scriptural, sanction, and the practice was banned in Bengal in 1818 . In 1856, the Company

had also passed Act XV “Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act” that allowed the remarriage of Hindu

widows and maintenance of a limited amount of property, whereas previously a widow may be


disowned of all property .

These early successes, led almost exclusively by men, started the turbulent process of

women’s rights advocacy in India with its numerous obstacles. It can be described as a

triangular conflict between Indian liberals and feminists, the British Empire, and conservatives

who saw women’s rights as colonial infringement on Indian traditions. Indian feminists were

largely nationalists, in opposition to British rule, yet at the same time at odds with those who

saw women as being given too much freedom by foreign invaders; a conflict that still persists to

some degree into the 21st century. Cultural differences served as yet another obstacle, as

traditional roles for women were neither agreed upon nor necessarily even known throughout

India. Satifor example was not a continent-wide practice, and only really prominent in Orissa


and Bengal, where the first major British adventures in India happened to be .

The first educational institutions for women in India were established by British and

American missionaries in the early 19th century, and earned much resentment from local

populations for proselytizing, as well as support from religious malcontents looking to challenge

the old Hindu order. The first text on women’s education in Bengali was published by the

38 “In the same year he [Ram Mohan Roy] wrote the first text attacking sati to be published in an Indian language (Bengali)” (Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990,8)

39 (Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 9)

40 (Carroll, Sarkar and Sarkar, Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A Reader,78)

41 Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 9.



Female Juvenile Society in Calcutta by Gourmohan Vidyalamkara . Not long after, Bengali

supporters began opening their own similar institutions. These institutions became more popular

as an Anglicized economy became more apparent, however the schools were also a means by

which Britain could stamp out “barbaric” practices, consequently taking a paternalistic attitude to


the attending women and demanding the denouncement of much of their cultural identity .

These included popular entertainment customs, and traditional means of women’s expression,

so while women were receiving an education their rights were closely monitored as to meet

Victorian standards. Among indigenous institutions, the reasons to educate women ranged from

the extremes of improving women’s self-agency to Anglophilia. The Society for Acquisition of

General Knowledge, founded in 1838, blamed Hinduism and Islam for women’s illiteracy, and

demanded secular education. Similar other movements such as the Tattavadodhini Sabha

supported rationalist education, while at the same time making golden age arguments

supporting women’s education as ancient to appease traditionalists and combat remarks made


by British missionaries questioning India’s status as a civilization . Hindu proselytization, Arya

Samaj,in the mid-19th century went so far as to claim Dharmic cultures valued women in a

more elevated position in ancient times, and the culture had been strayed away from as history


progressed . The historical validity of this claim is unsupported, however these claims sought to

further legitimize efforts for the education and elevation of women in the 19th century, while at

the same time further divide Indians on the issue and validate other restrictive traditions.

42 Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990,14.

43 Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 14-15.

44 Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 20.

45 “A study of ancient Hindu literature made it abundantly clear that the present unenviable lot of Indian women was due to a deterioration of their old ideal. In Ancient India, both in theory and practice, women were placed on a pedestal in society; equal to that of men, if not higher. As regards education and marriage they held and equal position. The girls were equally entitled to receive education, and no limitations at all were set on their ambitions in this direction. Study was equally enjoined for the girls as well as the boys. The only difference was that, in the case of girls, their periods of education expired sooner than that of boys” (Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 21)


Savitribai Jyotirao Phule was the first woman to open a girls’ school, with her husband


Jyotirao Phule in Pune in 1848 . The school was vilified by local brahman for not only educating


girls but also breaching caste boundaries . They set up a number of schools aimed primarily at

dalit girls, and wrote about how education would elevate the status of the dalit caste.

Approaching the turn of the century many women’s schools were beginning to pay off and more

women started appearing in public spheres, asserting and/or advocating their rights. Women

professionals were becoming more prominent, including novelists like Kashibai Kanitkar,


Nirupama Devi, and Anurupa Devi, and India’s first woman physician was Anandibai Joshi .

Most of these new women faced intense scrutiny from conservative elements, at times being

disowned or even stoned to death. Great reluctance against recruiting women into nationalist

campaigns also existed. Pandita Ramabai founded the Mahila Arya Samaj, one of India’s first

women’s organization, and pressed women to participate in the newly founded Indian National

Congress, with ten women representing in the 1889 congress, one of whom was elected by a


men’s organization . Initial topics they brought up included those controversial ones like

prostitution and rape, which had a tendency to be perceived by nationalist rhetoric to be

depicted as crimes only committed by British soldiers and not by Indian men as well. The

balance of British authority was on the line in Congress dialogue. The Congress argued the

abolishment of a law banning prostitution, arguing that the prostitution act was abused to allow


officers to accuse any woman of being a prostitute and likewise engage in harassment .

While women’s congressional support was turbulent, Mohandas Gandhi expressed

support for women nationalists engaging in the Satyagraha movement after his experiences of

civil disobedience in South Africa. Gandhi however still maintained the opinion of distinguishable

gender roles in the independence movement, exemplifying the womanhood ideals of “Sita,

46 ("Savitribai, The Mother Of Modern Girls' Education In India")

47 Savitribai Jyotirao Phule and Jyotirao Phule were dalits, or “untouchables”, the lowest caste.

48 Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 32.

49 Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 34.

50 Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 34-35.



Damayanti, and Draupadi” , core female figures in the Mahabharata though with incredibly

stretched interpretations of their meaning to Satyagraha. Women needed to exercise their own

strength, Gandhi believing that women’s “weakness” was subjective and related to will rather

than objective and spiritually ordained.

52 Gandhi’s introduction to the National Congress, as well

as a general increase in western-educated Indian academics joining the congress, caused

support to turn in favour of women nationalists, and by 1910 women became an integral part of

Satyagraha, the Independence movement. It was expected that women’s natural roles could be

turned against the British, by educating children into the nationalist spirit, supporting the boycott

of British textiles through silk weaving at home. There was still a caste struggle that prevented

the middle movement from being totally efficient, as caste differences were also recognized by

women and met resistance from ideas that for the lower caste to elevate, the upper castes

needed to humble themselves to contributing to the tasks of dalits.

During the salt boycott, where Gandhi ordered the home-refining of salt in attack against


the British salt monopoly, women en-masse eagerly participated in the distilling of salt .

Kasturba Gandhi, the Mahatma’s wife, “lead thirty-seven women volunteers from the ashram at


Sabarmati to offer satyagraha and to demand abolition of the salt tax” , and activists like

Sarojini Naidu and Kamaladevi led thousands on processional “raids” against salt works.

Women pressured Gandhi to play a more active role in the Satyagraha movement, much to the

disagreement of Gandhi who believed jobs like picketing and textiles could only be entrusted on

women52 . Though these decisions may have had tactical merits in the fight for independence,

they may have just as well had longer consequences by maintaining women in traditional roles.

51 Kishwar, “Gandhi on Women,” 44.

52 Kishwar, “Gandhi on Women,” 44.

53 Kishwar, “Gandhi on Women,” 49.

54 Kumar, The History of Doing, an Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, 34.


Chapter 2

China, India, and Japan, and the Foundation of Human Rights

This chapter will place women’s rights and the three asian countries within the frame of

reference of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration is important

because it is the first time in modern history the countries of the world gather together to discuss


what rights all their citizens are commonly entitled to. There were many reasons for all of the

countries to view the idea of a universal declaration of rights disdainfully. Most of these rights

transcend the authority of the state. Many of these rights breached cultural norms and long

standing traditions. The rights of women, a crucial component of the Declaration, threatened

many of the privileges men enjoyed, especially men of high status. Yet the document was met

incredibly positively, and though the enforcement of these rights have much to be asked for the

rights are idealistic even by 21st century standards. The Declaration represented a changing

world ethos, responding to the horrors of the Second World War. Colonial overlords and

economic domineers were humbled by the devastation wrought by Axis occupiers, and awoken

to the unprecedented level of interpersonal cooperation that came about from the most total of

total wars. Though the UN’s successes are questionable, its status as a turning point for global

morality is not.

The rights of women as both individuals and equals to men are but a small part of the

intentions of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations’

Universal Declaration of Human Rights is itself a small product of a larger and more general

global movement to achieve civil equality and liberty for individual from all various walks of life.

The articles of the declaration attempt to secure their own relevance in all situations, both

cultural and circumstantial. This has unfortunately left the declaration as a very vague and easily

ignorable or abusable list of suggestions.

The UDHR has been criticized for Eurocentrism. For example, Chinese ambassador Liu

Huaqiu during the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights said,

“The concept of human rights is a product of historical development. It is closely

associated with the specific social, political, and economic conditions and the specific

history, culture, and values of a particular country. Different historical development stages

have different human rights requirements. Thus, one should not and cannot think the

human rights standards and model of certain countries as the only proper ones and

demand all other countries to comply with them. For the vast number of developing


countries, to respect and protect human rights is first and foremost to ensure the full

realization of the rights to subsistence and development” (Davis 112)

The document has been signed and recognized by non-Western countries, including two of my

three example countries. Japan was not a signatory due to not being a UN member in 1948,

and the Republic of China was the representative signatory for China. While politics has

changed drastically for all countries involved since 1948 the rights defined by the UDHR are at

least recognizable. Liu Huaqiu cites pragmatism to support the idea that rights must be

suppressed at times to secure basic human needs for the population as a whole. Though

threats to national security and stability can be abused to secure power and control through the

curtailing of rights, as was witnessed in the dictatorships of the pre-war order, the Second World

War was a lesson that rights need infrastructure. National crisis can curtail rights for citizens,

and delay the victory for rights for subjects, as resources are diverted to fight an immediate

threat or build up preventative measures. As Mr. Liu Huaqiu explains about China, many

countries on Earth even today do not have the infrastructure to enforce human rights, and the

articles of the declaration are most easily enforced in the developed economies of the West.

When a national security crisis is compounded with an already existing challenged infrastructure

or development, protecting human rights is difficult to say the least.

Nevertheless, the document was signed by most of sovereign non-white administrations

that were around 1948, including the Republics of China and India. The few countries who did

not ratify the document were either not UN members (most notably former Axis countries), or

under the Soviet sphere of influence. Reasons for the refusal of ratification, and disagreements

to the terms of the declaration, include both cultural and political reasons, aggravated by the

complications of “repeating” a process that had already pulled through to the drafting of the UN


Charter. South Africa viewed the declaration as a threat to their institution of apartheid , Saudi

55 “Upon closer scrutiny, however, the South African position can be seen to have been advanced not because of its philosophical merits, but for the protection of the system of apartheid, which clearly violated any number of articles in the Declaration. A basic human right, the right of a person to participate in the government of his or her country, which is included in even the most conservative packages of human rights, was according to Louw, the South African representative on the Third Committee, not universal” (Danchin 10)


Arabia abstained from ratifying the declaration in disagreement to articles 16 and 18 on religious


rights . The Soviet Union condemned the committee for the refusal to amend articles 19 and 20


to revoke human rights to supposed fascists and Nazis , and disagreed with the extralegal

nature of the human rights declaration

58 (Danchin 10). Other disagreements were either carried

over from the Atlantic Charter or resolved, such as Britain’s disagreement with a mention from


the Charter . No member nation outright refused the entire document, and all dissenting

members did no more than abstain to terms on the declaration, while contributing to its draft in

other regards.

Despite every nation either agreeing to the terms of the Declaration of Human Rights or

contributing to its drafting, the vagueness of the terms is telling of the innumerable political,

cultural, ethical, and even comprehensive disagreements that were possible without such

vagueness. Take for example Article 29 (which I will mention again later): that “everyone has

duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is

possible,” and “that in the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to

such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and

respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality,

public order and the general welfare in a democratic society” (UN General Assembly, 1948).

56 “The Saudi Arabian delegation abstained in the final vote mostly for two reasons: because of the wording of Article 16 on equal marriage rights and because of objections to the clause in Article 18 which states that everyone has the right to change his religion or belief” (Danchin 10)

57 “The deep animosity that exists between Marxist egalitarianism and Nazi racism led to the USSR delegation to propose amendments to what became Articles 19 and 20 stating that fascists and Nazis did not have human rights to freedom of expression and association. When those amendments were rejected, the Communists, rather than abstaining, which was their custom, voted against these articles” (Danchin 10)

58 “He retracted most of his acceptance of human rights in a speech on the relationship between the individual and the state, at times taking a legal positivist approach to the matter of human rights. Human rights in this approach cannot be conceived outside the State, because the very concept of right and law was connected with that of the State” (Danchin 10)

59 , “The President [of the US] and the Prime Minister [of the UK] deem it right to make known certain

common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for

a better future for the world

under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them” out of fear of separatism with the Empire, a sentiment to which the United States profusely disagreed ( Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 314)

they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government


Language and cultural differences can lead to multiple executions of the clause, such as

different interpretations of “duties”, who these duties relate to, and how they may be performed.

The duties are never specified in the document. The Soviet Union disagreed with some of the

extralegal articles of the declaration, but the Republic of China which was still largely a

dictatorship at the time under political tutelage did agreed to all clauses of the declaration.

* *



China and India and the Drafting of Human Rights

* *



The logic behind China’s and India’s contributions to the Declaration of Human Rights

provides insight on local national cultures working in the construction of international human

rights. Human rights are typically seen as a Western concept, however during the drafting of

these rights China and India, as well as many other non-Western countries, contributed

considerably to the wording of the document, none of whom were in opposition to the

fundamentals of the document. China, with representing delegate and drafter Peng Chun Chang

(Zhāng Péngchūn), was one of the major contributing parties to the drafting of the Declaration.

P. C. Chang introduced an Eastern perspective to the drafting of the rights, predicting Western


biases and applying his understanding of Confucian philosophy to the draft . One example is


his application of “two-man-mindedness”, or ren , to the secularization of the origin of human

rights, arguing against the idea of stating a divine or natural origin to human rights as such


origins are not universally held . R


en, or the English understanding of ren “conscience” ,

serves as one of the bases for the first article of the declaration, that individuals are also

60 “Chang adopted an implicit strategy to mean that the Western influences might be too great. This story had laid a foundation for Chang’s incorporating Confucian ideas in the declaration” (Sun, Human Rights Protection System in China,10)

61 “Zhang then suggested the addition of the Confucian concept of “Two-man-mindedness [ren]” to complement the reference to reason and underscore that man also should act in consideration of his fellow human beings” (Angle and Svensson, The Chinese Human Rights Reader: Documents and Commentary, 1900-2000, 204)

62 “P. C. Chang supported Count Carton de Wiart of Belgium in a speech in which he pleaded for ‘two-man-mindedness’ and asked the delegates not to impose philosophical concepts such as natural law on countries where they are alien to the thinking of many millions of people” (Sun 10)

63 Rén was translated by P. C. Chang into ‘two-man-mindedness,’ which was well known in the Western world as ‘conscience’” (Sun, Human Rights Protection System in China,4)



responsible for the protection of rights of other individuals , reading: “All human beings are born

free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should


act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood ” (UN General Assembly, 1948). The

responsibilities, or duties, individuals have to the protection of each other’s humanity, Chang

argued, were stated at the end of the document, by Article 29, in order to mention first the rights

and freedoms all humans are entitled to before mentioning their duties to the protection of these


rights . Relating to my earlier mention of Article 29, the duties were deliberately left vague,

regarding more of the philosophical concept of “brotherhood”, or Confucian communitarianism,

alluding to the responsibilities as not inherently being political in nature.

P. C. Chang’s reconciliation of Confucian humanism with Western humanism however

was not completely reflective of China’s situation at the time, nor had the Japanese invasion

made a profound effect on the state’s policy. Drafting the Declaration of Human Rights had just

as much of political goals as it did moral goals for many countries, as the Cold War was looming

over the horizon. Chang was representing the Republic of China, which by 1948 was losing its

civil war to the People’s Republic of China, and nothing of what Chang and other Chinese

representatives wrote into the Declaration was processed through Communist regime. The

recent history at the time of the Republic of China reflected the use of human rights as a political

weapon against Communism. Though by 1948 the Republic had codified a nondiscrimination

64 “Others approved of Zhang’s idea, and the United Kingdom and Lebanese representatives then suggested that the English word “conscience” be used to express the idea of renand add to Cassin’s invocation of reason” (Angle and Svensson, The Chinese Human Rights Reader: Documents and Commentary, 1900-2000, 204)

65 “Zhang stated his belief that the ‘aim of the United Nations was not to ensure the selfish gains of the individual but to try and increase man’s moral stature. It was necessary to proclaim the duties of the individual, for it was a consciousness of his duties that enabled man to reach a high moral standard’. Zhang followed up this statement a day later when he again referred to the draft proposal for Article 1 that included the phrase ‘in a spirit of brotherhood,’ and that, to Zhang’s mind, was an implicit reference to duties” (Angle and Svensson, The Chinese Human Rights Reader: Documents and Commentary, 1900-2000,204)

66 “Zhang put it, ‘An article which dealt with the limitations on the exercise of the rights and freedoms proclaimed in the Declaration should not appear at the beginning of the Declaration before those rights and freedoms themselves had been set forth.’ In the end, only one article in the UDHR mentions duties. Article 29 (1) now reads: ‘Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible” (Angle and Svensson, The Chinese Human Rights Reader:

Documents and Commentary, 1900-2000, 204)


clause in its constitution stating that “all citizens of the Republic of China, irrespective of sex,


religion, race, class, or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law” , earlier the regime had

criticized human rights as being “inappropriate”

68 to China. Chang and other Chinese

representatives like Chung-Shu Lo to UNESCO voiced genuine agreement to the compatibility

of human rights in Chinese culture and its application, however the regime itself took the

opportunity to win favour from the Western democracies by championing human rights for


themselves in return for support against the new Communist regime in Beijing . Taiwan would

maintain its UN security council position until 1971, and perpetrate human rights violations

themselves, such as the mass arresting and killing of protesters against the Nationalist regime


that took ten thousand lives on February 28, 1947 . The Republic would even be accused of

human rights violations by the Communist regime. This isn’t to suggest there wasn’t a genuine

interest among Chinese intellectuals in human rights, with similar contemporary notions of

human rights being argued since the May Fourth movement in 1919 with aims to finally

conclude the Republican revolution and forge an actual democracy. Writer and activist Zhou

Jingwen in 1941 writes during the heat of the Second Sino Japanese War the rights he believes

all Chinese are entitled to: “The rights to life, personal freedom, freedom of residence, freedom

of thought, freedom of speech and publication, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and

association, freedom of employment, public trial, oppose violence, enjoy a minimum livelihood,


and management of national affairs” .





67 Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent, 46

68 “While the GMD had earlier argued that human rights were inappropriate to China, it was now prepared to stress the universality of human rights and work towards guaranteeing that ‘all people were protected in their inalienable rights’” (Angle and Svensson, The Chinese Human Rights Reader: Documents and Commentary, 1900-2000, 204-205)

69 “It became politically expedient for the GMD to use human rights critique in the political struggle against the CCP in order to win the support of the so-called Free World” (Angle and Svensson, The Chinese Human Rights Reader: Documents and Commentary, 1900-2000, 205)

70 Angle and Svensson, The Chinese Human Rights Reader: Documents and Commentary, 1900-2000,


71 (Angle and Svensson, The Chinese Human Rights Reader: Documents and Commentary, 1900-2000, 194-196):“The Program of the Human Rights Movement (1941)” by Zhou Jingwen (1908-1985)


India vested its existence on the success of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights. The

fate of colonial subjects had remained controversial during the drafting of the Atlantic Charter,

with India being represented by a British-selected delegation, and colonies like Belgium’s Congo

and the Netherlands’ East Indies being overall ignored. Prime Minster Nehru and Gandhi had


also predicted the UN to be a crucial instrument for their beliefs in internationalism , aiming to

bring India among the leaders of a new world order of human equality. This internationalism was

different from its common contemporary understanding, advocating more for a global community


of people rather than a global community of nations . India’s recent victory in the 1946 General

Assembly in San Francisco in demanding an end to the application of South Africa’s Apartheid


laws to peoples of Indian origins , by delegate Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, boosted confidence in


the UN’s succession of the flawed and failed League of Nations . The South Africa debate set a

precedent for the Human Rights Committee that human rights would take priority over national


sovereignty .

Nehru assigned Hansa Jivraj Mehta to represent India in the human rights delegations

from 1947 on to the completion of the Declaration of Human Rights. Like P. C. Chang, Nehru

72 Bombay ‘Quit India’ Declaration: “The Committee is of the opinion that the future peace, security and

ordered progress of the world demand a world federation of free nations, and on no other basis can the

problems of the modern world be solved

co-operate on an equal basis with other countries in the solution of international problems” (Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 318)

73 “Gandhi’s reference to ‘internationalism’ in this context is more radical than the contemporary context of that word would suggest, embodying not a communion of fully sovereign, self-interested nation-states, but rather a siblinghood of equal states answerable both to their people and to the larger world community” (Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 318)

74 India did not challenge the Apartheid Institution, including native Africans and people of non-Indian Asian descent

75 “The event was immediately read as an ‘Asian’ victory, the triumph of the world’s dispossessed and aggrieved, and it was significant for setting the tone of what the new UN could and should be” (Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”,


76 “Assistant Secretary-General for Social Affairs Henri Laugier: ‘stated that no one part of the action undertaken by the United Nations to make peace more secure had more power or a wider scope than


in the field of international action

impression had arisen that no violation of human rights should be covered up by the principle of national sovereignty…’ (Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 325)


Independent India would gladly join such a world federation

. The action taken in the case of South Africa established a precedent of fundamental significance

It should be remembered


out of these debates the general


and Mehta advised caution in the framing of the declaration, emphasizing the extralegality of

human rights while at the same time being reasonable to the roles of governments and states.

Nehru wrote to Mehta:

It seems to me that the Human Rights Commission should deal with the subject in its

broadest aspects and not consider particular cases. We must take our stand on the

equality of opportunity for all peoples and races

. The rights of Nationals must

necessarily differ from those of Non-nationals. In either event there should be no

discrimination i.e. Non-Nationals should be treated alike

The question of nationality is

a difficult one, more especially in countries which have so far belonged to the British

Empire or Commonwealth Nations. I do not suppose that we need to go into this question

at the Human Rights Commission. Normally speaking, a person will not have a dual

nationality and he will have to choose. The International Bill of Rights should lay down

broad principles which can be applied. Too much detail should be avoided. There is

some reference in the brief to everyone having a right to own property. What is meant I

suppose is that no group should be deprived of any right which others possess. We

cannot object to any kind of legislation, applying to all, which may convert private

property to socially owned property.” 77

Much of Mehta’s efforts were put to the questions involving the enforcement of human

rights, a problem that had persisted since the League of Nations. Chairing the Working


Group on Implementation , she successfully proposed to grant the UN extranational

powers at protecting human rights, through means such as international courts and

77 Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 326 78 Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 329



tribunals . Mehta and Nehru did however fail at further ambitions of strengthening the

UN to a degree that would make it in effect a world republic 80

The intention was not to make a planet-wide government, but to instead create a

framework by which the United Nations would enforce, with force if necessary, the drafted

human rights, seeing to the otherwise meaninglessness of the effort if it were not to bear any

real fruition. Such effort was even supported by the United Kingdom and France, but

vehemently opposed by the Soviet Union, which may or may not have further politicized the

human rights discussion. India would internalize not only the human rights discussed but also

the protection of those rights on the international stage in its constitution, under Article 40 that


“The State shall endeavor to – (a) promote international peace and security; (b) maintain

just and honourable relations between nations; (c) foster respect for international law and

treaty obligations in the dealings of organised people with one another; and (d)

encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration”

* *



Human Rights and Women’s Rights

* *



Just as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sought to define and defend the

rights of all human, it applied its own logic to itself by refusing to categorize the people receiving

the rights. Though Article 2 mentions categories like “race” and “sex” by which people must not

be discriminated, the declaration specifically remains neutral on all regards. This had a duel

79 “The framework proposed and championed by Mehta and eventually adopted by the committee was to grant a special UN committee on human rights, in conjunction with an International Court, the power to

hear cases by individuals, associations, and (potentially against) states. This power would then be applied by the General Assembly, and possibly by a special attorney general” (Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 330)

80 “[T]he Human Rights Commission is meeting

is that there are common individual rights which should be guaranteed all the world over

U.N.O.? It is developing into a world republic in which all States, independent States, are represented and to which they may be answerable on occasions, for instance South Africa over the South Africa Indians’ question, even though this was a domestic question because Indians are South African citizens. [italics added]” (Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 332)

Our representatives are there. The conception today

What is the


effect, one that made a statement that nobody was going to received different rights from one

another, and another that dodged the whole topic of women’s rights being a potential issue for

UN signatories. The question of women’s rights was readdressed in 1979 with the creation of

the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW,

which fully addressed the rights of women after decades of general human rights violations by


all member states , however the very beginning of the Declaration’s draft served as a

revolutionary point for global feminism.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the first chairperson of the UN Commission on Human

Rights, was the driving force pushing women’s rights into the full purview of human rights.

Though feminist movements had already been in full force and achieving victories for decades,

the entire world was still largely starving women of their rights, even in the West. Just like the

First World War, the Second World War saw many proofs of concept for egalitarian measures

tried and tested, such as the mass-hiring of women into the heavy arms industry in Europe, and

even the Russian adoption of women combat units. Though these measures would forever

shape human rights dialogue to come, their implementations were never permanent, reassuring

patriarchal authority after the conflict had subsided. During the war in the United States, millions

of women entered the industrial workforce to supply the troops abroad, and yet were refused

employment after the war despite admitting satisfaction with their wartime jobs (“‘Continued

Employment after the War?’: The Women’s Bureau Studies Postwar Plans of Women


Within the Declaration of Human Rights discussion, the issue of women’s rights needed

pressure, pressure that was primarily provided by the Communist member states

82 to prioritize

81 “Roosevelt’s progressive push notwithstanding, the claim for equal human rights for men and women was routinely ignored for the next few decades, leading to the upsurge in feminist and women’s movements around the globe. As one result of feminist action at the international level, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, essentially providing women with their own human rights treaty” (Friedman, “Bringing Women to International Human Rights”, 480)

82 “With strong assists from the Indian delegation, the USSR delegation was a crucial player in the expansion of nondiscrimination items in Article 2. The Communist delegations were also great allies of the women’s lobby and helped that lobby clear the text of sexist language and insured equal rights for women


the Article 2 non-discriminatory clause and word it so that it may encompass all human beings.

Support for this was not exclusively from Communist countries. The use of the word “men” was

also met with heated controversy, with delegates supporting that “men” was a shorthand

reference to “mankind” or “humankind”, and other delegates such Indian delegate Hansa Mehta


and Belgian delegate Ronald Lebau


, as well as vice-chairman of the Commission on the


Status of Women Amilia C. de Castillo Ledon , arguing for the use of “human beings” in


substitute for “men” to clarify gender neutrality across languages . The completed iteration of

the Declaration consist of gender neutral nouns, asides from the first article’s “in the spirit of

brotherhood”, and articles 23 and 25 that refer to “himself and his family” and “the worker and

his family”. The latter two were not debated.

Rights met with considerable debating included equality before the law, marriage rights,

and nondiscrimination of income. Article 6, protecting individuals’ equality before the law, was

debated on grounds of redundancy, with the American, British, and Indian delegations arguing


that such an article opened confusion , while the French and Russian delegations argued the

necessity of an equality clause to combat discriminatory laws

88 or biases against women. Article

across the entire range of the Declaration” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent, 95)

83 “Metha, the delegate from India, raised the issue in the regular session of the Commission, saying that

‘she did not like the wording of ‘all men’ or ‘should act

interpreted to exclude women, and were out of date’” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent,118)

84 “Ronald Lebeau, the Belgian delegate, pointed to the absurdity of tous les hommes, hommes et femmesand proposed the compromise phrase of ‘all human beings’” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent,119)

85 “Amilia C. de Castillo Ledon, vice-chairman of the Commission on the Status of Women, said that while ‘her Commission understood that the term ‘all men’ had a general sense, there was a certain ambiguity in it and it would be better to use the more precise term, which moreover figured in the Charter’” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent,119)

86 “By this time the Commission had via the Secretary-General received a draft of Article 1 from the Commission on the Status of Women, which proposed that ‘all people’ be substituted for ‘all men’ and ‘in the spirit of brotherhood’ for ‘like brothers’” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent, 119)

87 “The British, Indian and American delegations felt that the general article on nondiscrimination was sufficient and that there was therefore no need to enter into the murky waters of what it means to be a "person before the law” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent,120)

88 “Pavlov joined his French colleague in wanting to retain the idea of a ‘juridical personality.’ He pointed out that apart from attempts against whole groups, such as those against the Jews in Germany, account must be taken of the fact that some civil legislation still contained restrictive provisions regarding juridical


brothers.’” Such phrases, she said ‘might be


16, pertaining to marriage rights, provided rights to consensual marriage with no discrimination

in regards to race, ethnicity, or religion. Article 16 was disputed on grounds of divorce rights, as

divorce of any kind was not permissible in Catholic countries

8990 , and was abstained by Saudi


Arabia who disagreed with nondiscrimination on a basis of religion . A resolution was made

regarding divorce rights by understanding it as a nondiscriminatory measure rather than a


personal liberty, that in the event of a divorce neither spouse may be discriminated against .

Article 23, the clause for freedom of employment and fair pay, was debated over the issue that

the article did not explicitly mention women’s rights to equal pay as men, maintaining a gender

neutral “everyone”. The British and Indian delegations opposed the mention of a specific

women’s ‘equal pay for equal work’ clause because they feared reiterating women’s rights in

their own clause would make the article an exception rather than a rule, and imply other articles


not mentioning women were exclusive of women , while the Byelorussian delegation argued

that the clause was necessary because income discrimination was the most pervasive form of

personality of individuals. Thus, in certain cases, a wife had no juridical personality independent from that of her husband” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent, 121)

89 “M. Amado, the Panamanian representative, said that his delegation could not accept most proposals since ‘some States were bound by laws based on Concordats with the church and had, in respect of religious marriage and divorce, obligations which would not permit them to accept the proposed texts’” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent,121)

90 “Catherine Schaeffer, who represented the International Union of Catholic Women's Leagues, ‘pointed out that her organization comprised 36 million women divided among 120 associations in 60 countries,’ all of whose consciences would be offended by the ‘principle of the dissolution of marriage’” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent, 122)

91 “Baroody, the Saudi Arabian delegate to the Third Committee, ‘emphasized the fact that apparently the authors of the draft declaration had for the most part taken into consideration only the standards recognized by western civilization and had ignored more ancient civilizations which were past the experimental stage, and the institutions of which, for example marriage, had proved their wisdom through centuries.’” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent, 124)

92 “The drafters treated the issue of divorce as one of nondiscrimination rather than a basic and independent human right” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent,125)

93 “[Indian delegate] Metha, who had been part of that group, said that only two members had wanted this provision and that she herself felt that to make ‘specific reference to women in the article would give rise to the impression that women did not have the same rights in other matters where they were not specifically mentioned” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent,127)



gender discrimination . Other matters of women’s rights were discussed for wording’s sake,

with much emphasis placed on egalitarian political rights.

The debates prove a common goal with diverse and occasionally conflicting perspectives

on how the goal may be achieved. Women having rights equal to men was a unanimously

accepted ideal among the represented nations, with Saudi Arabia being the only country

abstaining from the Declaration on grounds of marriage rights, the right in question being a

woman’s or man’s right to marry outside of their religion, while the equality between the man

and woman’s limitations was not questioned by the Saudi delegation. Indian delegate Hansa


Mehta, who served on the UN Sub-Commission on the Status of Women , as was alluded to

earlier, made large contributions to the women’s rights dialogue in the drafting of the

Declaration. Mehta was the one to first propose the use of gender neutral nouns rather than

masculine nouns that were assumed to be gender neutral, and she as well as other delegates

like Minerva Bernardino from the Dominican Republic, Shaista Ikramullah from Pakistan, and

Bodil Begtrup from Denmark

96 were among the speakers for women’s rights debates excluding

the Soviet Union who was represented by Alexei Pavlov. Without Mehta and many other women

delegates, the dialogue on women’s rights may have either been minimal or forgotten.

Peng Chun Chang’s contributions cannot be ignored either, as he was also drafting

gender equality clauses for the Declaration. He emphasized his drafting of Article 26, the right to


education, believing that education is the gateway to freedom , and that gender equality could

only be met when girls have the same education opportunities as respecting merit. Education

94 “Stepanenko, the representative of the BSS: ‘The importance of such a provision was paramount, in view of the fact that women had been discriminated against in the matter of pay almost more than in any other” (Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting, and Intent, 127) 95 Bhagavan, “A New Hope: India, the United Nations and the Making of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 326

96 (Waltz, “Universalizing Human Rights: The Role of Small States in the Construction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 63)

97 “‘A human being had to be constantly conscious of other men, in whose society he lived. A lengthy process of education was required before men and women realized the full value and obligations of the rights granted to them in the declaration; it was only when that stage had been achieved that those rights could be realized in practice’” (Krumbein, “P.C. Chang - The Chinese Father of Human Rights”, 342)



should as well be accessible, with primary being free and compulsory . He also introduced an


article demanding that education also promote the values of the declaration . Where the

Declaration fell short at enforcing responsibilities to the protection of human rights, education

would serve as one measure for protection. As generations passed, people educated into the

values of universal compassion would voluntarily inherit the responsibility of protecting other

people's’ rights, needing no international pressure or armed force to maintain these values on

the political stage. Western schools dedicating lessons to teaching foreign cultures and

women’s history are an indirect product of this belief, and succeed in ingraining into at least

some students universal compassion.





Japan and the Rise of Human Rights





Japan, as with the other Axis-aligned countries, was excluded from the grand design of

universal human rights. Leading the American occupation, General MacArthur was stationed to

turn Japan into a pacifist democracy as was demanded in the Potsdam Declaration

100 . The

proceedings of the Declaration of Human Rights would directly affect the occupation of Japan,

and instill these values into the previously fascist regime. No Japanese politicians or

intellectuals were present at the drafting of the Declaration of Human Rights, and though the

human rights declaration was taken positively by some Japanese, Japan was subject to the

same cynicism that beset the US going into the Cold War. Human rights came second to

anti-communist policing.

98 “‘Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory; technical and professional education shall be made generally available; and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit’” (Krumbein, “P.C. Chang - The Chinese Father of Human Rights”, 340)

99 “Chang also proposed the first sentence of Paragraph 2 of Article 26: ‘Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality, to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and to the promotion of international goodwill’” (Krumbein, “P.C. Chang - The Chinese Father of Human Rights”, 340) 100 “‘The Japanese government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established’” (Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,17)


The occupational government brought very little immediate change to the authoritarian

ethos of post-war Japan. It was largely staffed by prewar officials, many who were not swayed

by the changing world ethos

101 . Though many economic reforms were accepted, Japan’s

political ethos still laid in state guidance, and strict adherence to cultural traditions. Several

decades of being ruled by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party of Japan saw few

legislative advances into human rights, though this neglect hasn’t gone unnoticed by

socialist-leaning parties. Human rights wouldn’t make into the forefront of Japanese dialogue

until the 1990’s



Drafting the postwar Japanese constitution was also largely a work of the US military

rather than one of the Japanese government. The first proposed constitution brought forth by

Japanese cabinet member Dr. Matsumoto Jôji, which was rejected by the SCAP as

“insufficiently democratic”

103 . The GHQ of the occupational government provided their own

constitutional guidelines by which the new government would write their constitution. The

constitution renounced the Emperor’s importance compared to the people, and made three of its

most important points about popular sovereignty, human rights, and pacifism

of the new constitution goes as follows:

104 . The preamble

“We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear

and want. We believe that no nation is responsible to itself alone, but the laws of political

morality are universal; and that obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who

would sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign relations with other




The constitution did not go through popular vote.

101 “In the immediate post-war period those in power had been educated and socialised in the predominantly authoritarian system and were not going to change their attitudes overnight. Neither those in senior positions in Tokyo nor the leaders of local communities had much familiarity with the ideas of rights. Far more familiar was the idea that individuals and groups should set aside their selfish desires and work for the good of the community and state” (Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,28)

102 Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,28

103 Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,29

104 Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,29

105 Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,29


Other political groups also formulated their own drafts of a new constitution that

were not processed through the diet, the Socialists and Anarchists placing greater

emphasis on human rights politics

106 . These parties also criticized the Liberal party, who

in spite of their name were the conservative camp, for not democratizing the constitution

enough. The constitution dedicates thirty-two articles to human rights, but does not stay

true to the entirety of the Declaration of Human Rights. For example, equal protection

before the law for aliens was not accepted for the constitution, while provisions for the

rights of women were.

Japan’s acceptance of human rights wasn’t entirely without action, as the

government made efforts to towards the establishment of institutions that would educate

the population on their newly won rights. Civil Liberties Commissioners were volunteers

who were assigned in numbers to metropolitans areas and prefectures around Japan to

promote the ideals of human rights, stemming off a prewar system of unpaid volunteer

‘district commissioners’, or homeniin, who would spare their time to mediate between the

lower class and social services

107 . Professor Ian Neary cites the Civil Liberties bureau on

the tasks expected from the Civil Liberties Commissioners:

- “To carry out public information and education functions, to diffuse ideas of

respect for freedom and human rights

- To promote campaigns for the protection of human rights

- To investigate and collect information on cases involving infringement of human

rights and take pertinent action such as reporting to the MoJ [Ministry of Justice]

or giving advice or warning to the agencies involved

- To provide aid in litigation and take other relief measures for the protection of the

poor and ot protect their rights

- To make other efforts to protect human rights” 108

106 Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,30

107 Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,37

108 Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,38


The NGO Japan Civil Liberties Union has also been an instrument to the promotion of

human rights in Japan, first directed by democratic socialist Unno Shinshiki, that lead

campaigns against human rights violations and undemocratic activities by domestic

institutions and the government itself. It even wrote a counter report against a UN human

rights report Japan gave in 1989

109 . However, state efforts towards human rights

remained rather unofficial, with an actual bureau for human rights not being formed until

1984, and staffed by only ten people initially

110 . Japanese participation in the UN also

remained rather minimal

111 , generally following the stance of the United States and

maintaining a position that would protect its own pride and minimize resources for

political opposition

112 Until recently, the majority effort to the promotion of human rights,

including women’s rights, was through NGO’s and political opposition, as well as informal

interactions by Japanese citizens. Otherwise, there was, and still is, a great deal of

apathy towards human rights as well as the exercise of those rights. While universal

rights for women were won during American occupation, there is not a great deal of

practice for won social freedoms such as independent living and occupational pursuit, as

“Japanese women are generally content with their prestige and social power as wives

and mothers, and few are encouraged or choose to seek public decision-making




However just because Japan has said very little regarding human rights does not

there aren’t Japanese people who have found the Declaration to be a positive

development, and who dedicate themselves to the furthering of human rights both at

home and abroad. Since the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War, human rights have

109 Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,36

110 Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,42

111 “Between 1953 to the start of the 1990s Japan was not an enthusiastic proponent of human rights within the UN. It participated in the bodies dealing with human rights issues only reluctantly and tended to respond defensively to proposals it considered at variance with Japanese law or practice” (Neary 43)

112 “Japan was reluctant to expose itself to criticism from abroad and did not want to give indigenous human rights organisations the opportunity to use international standards or institutions to exert pressure from outside” (Neary, Human Rights in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,43)

113 Beer, “Group Rights and Individual Rights in Japan”, 46


returned to Japanese intellectual dialogue, with local revival of old means to rights

education, as well as making greater efforts to teach intercultural relations to school

students in school systems in Osaka and Kyoto. Being a former Axis-sympathetic

country, having a history of ethnic chauvinism, losing a world war, and being occupied by

a Western power, have all contributed to the general apathy towards human rights. Yet

Japan, like Germany, is still crucial to the story of the UN and the ethical developments

resulting from World War II, as it provides a perspective from an aggressor who lost to

compare and contrast with a defender who won.





The UN’s foundation of human rights have had mixed successes, as the world plunged

into the Cold War and survival in a nuclear age took greater precedence over the rights of man.

The second wave of feminism, civil rights movement, the death of Mao, and other political

turning points would rehash the ethical questions brought about by the same tension, tragedies,

and exhaustion of the Second World War. The nations represented at the UN Human Rights

talks prioritized their own national interests, taking stances in favour of human rights to win

diplomatic advantages, or against in order to protect traditions. However these nations were

careful in whom they selected to represent them at the UN Human Rights convention, balancing

ferver to the human cause with loyalty to the homeland. The Declaration of Human Rights being

drafted by a collection of individuals with their own convictions, and many without political

backgrounds, ensured this new development wasn’t forged just by politicians replacing a chess

board for a new game of global politics, but instead persons who were just as much going to be

subjects of the new world orders as well as creators of it. Now in writing, all humans anywhere

and everywhere had rights that transcended the state, rights meant to prevail the next time a

nation was invaded, the next time a new government rose, and the next time the world was

rocked by a new technological revolution. Of course, these rights would be hardly enforced, as

every country today, from North Korea to Norway, is guilty of human rights violations, as well as

neglect or denial of these rights. However the UN Declaration of Human Rights is one of the few


times where “the thought counts”, because the declaration has wielded enough soft power to

serve as a banner for human rights advocates, from common citizens to world and corporate

leaders, to rally under. The UN Declaration of Human Rights is a testament for how the suffering

of World War II shaped the moral consciousness of all humans. Though a world without the war

would have spared the souls unfortunate enough to have been taken as they were historically,

the moral lessons may not have been.

Chapter 3

World War II: An Agent Toward the Emancipation of Women

The scale of the Second World War had profound effects on how societies reacted to the

roles of women as much as it did the roles of anyone else. The Axis powers occupied and

devastated so much territory, and brought with them genocidal policies, that the need to survive

challenged existing social norms in many of the Allied countries. Within Axis countries social

hierarchies were the lifeline of their chauvinistic ideologies, encouraging women to either follow

or even accept fascist and related tenants. This chapter displays ways in which women and

feminists reacted to the wartime environment, seizing some opportunities and enduring other

tragedies. No nation can truly be compared with one another due to the unique circumstances

beset upon every belligerent party, and this chapter won’t be comparing experiences. The

experiences themselves matter the most to describe how the war changed the course of


The war did not directly lead to the liberation of women. World War II played very much

an indirect role to this progression. After all the war itself was a reaction against liberalism, not a

push for it. Allied nations were more concerned with their survival than what rights people did or

did not have, though the war did prove the benefits of alleviating sex and race based hierarchy

in favour of greater meritocracy when waging a total war of survival. There were still countless

abuses against women as a direct result of the war, and many of these abuses amplified

abuses that had already existed even during times of peace. What the war did was make people


more conscious about both the abuses against women, and women’s deserving of equality

alongside men. Cultural shifts towards greater gender equality were not profound until long after

the war, however the experience of the war for women’s rights advocates, and their

descendants, however the distance in time does not mean a distance in influence.





Second Sino-Japanese War in China: Fighters and Slaves





The war in China did not start out as a surprise invasion, but rather a border skirmish.

Neither side quite expected a total war to break out, as none had occurred during Japan’s

occupation of Manchuria in 1931. On top of this escalation, a civil war was waging between

former allies, KMT and Chinese Communist Party. Though the prevailing rights for women

weren’t particularly outstanding compared to the West, as women were no longer completely

subjugated by imperial doctrine, the Nationalists had recognized feminism as an accomplice to

Communism, and maintained conservative gender roles. During the Xi’an incident in 1936, the

Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek was detained and forced to sign a ceasefire with the

Communist rebels to turn their attention to the Japanese aggressors. Despite Nationalist

antagonism against feminism, Japan was still the main enemy for many feminists



As the total nature of World War II became clear, the Nationalist government became

hard pressed to recruit the services of its women population to the defense of the nation. By

1938, after the fall of Nanjing and the subsequent genocide, the government made its “first

major effort to attract women’s support by convening a conference to establish a Women’s

114 “In the Sian [Xi’an] Incident, the next great landmark on the way to unity and active struggle against the invaders, the release of the seven [members of various National Salvation Associations in Shanghai] was one of the important demands made on the Generalissimo. These events, and ever-increasing Japanese pressure, led rapidly toward the achievement of the immediate goals for which every progressive, patriotic, antifascist Chinese had been working-the cessation of civil war, and armed resistance to external aggression” (Li Yu-ning Chinese Women through Chinese Eyes)


Advisory Committee.”

115 The committee mobilized women into supporting roles such as nursing

and feeding soldiers. Other organizations, founded by women, included the National Chinese

Women’s Association for War Relief, Wartime Association for Child Welfare, and the New Life

Movement Women’s Advisory Council. However the Nationalist government worried about

bolstering feminist zeal in light of Communist support, so restricted women to wartime duties

most appropriate to gender norms, using these organizations to promote conservative values

while not losing the benefits of women participation. The government in 1941 reemphasized

conservative norms, encouraging women “to have more children and limit their concerns to

family issues”, and to remain disassociated with the politics of the war

116 . The Central

Organization Department of the KMT stated in response to criticism:

“It is harmful for every woman to strive to take part in politics. … Work in the women’s

movement should be concerned with the general education, vocational training, women’s

service, and welfare and daily problems. The Women’s movement will have succeeded

when women reach the level of men in character, knowledge, physical condition, and

technical abilities.” 117

Campaigns to improve women’s education were underway to equip women for the tasks

required of the various wartime auxiliary organization mentioned earlier. The government’s aim

was to encourage what they believed to be a less decadent, more collectivist society to bolster

social cohesion for the war effort

on motherly values.

118 through the recruitment of women in educating other women

In contrast to the Nationalist government, the Communists were more open towards the

recruitment of women even into combat duties, including the establishment of women’s

115 Elshtain, Women and War: With a New Epilogue,110

116 Elshtain, Women and War: With a New Epilogue,111

117 Li Yu-ning Chinese Women through Chinese Eyes

118 “The Party launched a ‘spiritual’ campaign that had several aims, including eliminating the decadent thoughts of the nation, the selfishness of the population, and the tendency of the Chinese to ‘live without purpose,’ during the Sino-Japanese War. Council members hoped to nurture moralities that might be familiar to elites of the past, frugality, loyalty, and benevolence. Added to these qualities were the ideas of service to the nation, self discipline, and a collectivist ethic which had been nurtured among students, in part through textbooks, during the Nanjing decade” (Schneider, “Women and Family Education Reform in Wartime China, 187)


paramilitary corps like the Hunan War Service Corps, the Yunnan Women’s Battlefield Service

Unit, the Guangxi Province Women’s Brigade, and the Northwest Women’s Battlefield Group104 .

However, for political reasons, the Communists did not provide support for non-supporting units,

even attacking a Li Gua Dao cultist unit staffed ten percent by women members who saw the

cult as an opportunity for self defense. 119

China however was too decentralized for state protocol to be exercised to maximum

strictness. Enough room allowed women to take their own initiative, with or without state

support, such as the very immediate organization of nursing and morale units to the 29th army

stationed at the Manchurian border when the Marco Polo Bridge skirmishes occurred at the start

of the war

120 , several months before official endorsement by the Nationalist government. In the

battle of Shanghai women of all ages volunteered not only to aid in the defense of the city itself

but continued to stay and tend to its denizens during the occupation. Two months into the Battle

of Shanghai, about two thousand volunteer nurses from all walks of life were trained to treat

Chinese casualties

121 . Other women supported communications, maintained morale through

entertainment, and provided monetary support. Women also participated in and organized

resistance rings behind Japanese lines in Shanxi (Northern China), such as those connected

with the Chinese Eighth Route Army, maintaining communications between occupied villages

and performing sabotage against Japanese military operations. During the Japanese occupation

of Shanxi, many social traditions were relaxed under Eighth Route Army administration. Some

of the Shanxi villages had up until this point maintained Imperial-age gender norms, with women

unable to leave the house, and foot binding still a practice. Wartime difficulties, and

encouragement from women resistance fighters, turned Shanxi culture over on its head as it

119 Elshtain, Women and War: With a New Epilogue,111

120 “In the very first days after the clash on the Marco Polo Bridge, they organizated nursing, bandage making, and political propaganda units to work in conjunction with the local garrison - the 29th Army” (Li Yu-ning Chinese Women through Chinese Eyes)

121 “Volunteers helped to bring the wounded back from the front, rolled bandages and sewed hospital clothes for their needs, nursed them, wrote letters organized entertainment. Hastily set up classes trained two thousand emergency nurses in two months. Many women worked right in the zone of fire - mill girls, society matrons, students, and girl scouts side by side” (Li Yu-ning Chinese Women through Chinese Eyes)


became a more common sight to see women working alongside men, engage in social

intercourse, and pursue personal interests

122 . Among these many would join militia groups

under command of the Eighth Route Army who trained them for both combat and education



Logistics lines like the Burma Road and Northwest Highway, through which Allied powers

provided provisions for the Chinese Nationalist Army, were also staffed by many women




Though the Nationalist’s conservatism regarding women’s roles in the war rivaled the

social hierarchies of even the Axis countries, women’s institutions that highlighted their

importance to the war at all was a huge leap forward in Chinese history from imperial age

conservatism. In no previous international war had China recruited the services of women, and

joined by the Communist movement more women were conscious than ever about the threat

Japan posed to China and their own sovereignty. Unfortunately, of the atrocities committed in

China during the Second World War, the rape of over 20,000 women in Nanjing and forced

prostitution by the Japanese imperial army are among the most famous. State-sponsored

prostitution had already been a means to provide sexual pleasure for Japanese soldiers

stationed abroad, however greater efforts were made to organize the industry after the Rape of

Nanjing when the first “comfort stations” were established in China in 1938

125 . This was in

response to the international outcry against the atrocity, as Japan feared further humiliation from

whom they blamed to be undisciplined soldiers, turning instead to organized prostitution. No

statement was made by the Japanese government immediately after the Rape decrying the

atrocity itself in, and the event still remains controversial regarding the magnitude of the atrocity

122 “In the border region, family relations changed as women attended meetings and worked in the fields alongside men. Women participated more openly in social intercourse with men; they could more freely express their joy, anger, sorrow, fear, love, hate, and desire. Women began to perform in plays, operas, dances, singing groups, instrumental groups, and stilt walking” (Feng and Goodman, North China at War:

The Social Ecology of Revolution, 1937-1945,107)

123 Feng and Goodman, North China at War: The Social Ecology of Revolution, 1937-1945,118

124 “The Kwangtung trade route, which, dodging the blockade for more than a year, secretly moved far more goods each week than the Burma Road could manage in a month, was composed of endless lines of sturdy Hakka women-porters, carrying hundred-pound loads in thirty-mile stages” (Li Yu-ning Chinese Women through Chinese Eyes)

125 Elshtain, Women and War: With a New Epilogue, 112


as described by Chinese, Korean, or Japanese sources. By the 1940’s state-sponsored

prostitution and trafficking was not new, as the government had already been trafficking women

from Taiwan, Korea, and Taiwan, and many of the institutions were based on a previously

existing sex-trafficking system that sold Karayuki-san,or Japanese girls or women who were

trafficked abroad, to other countries and colonies in Asia



Slavery, which by this time included forced prostitution, had already been banned under

international law in the 1926 Slavery Convention

127 . As a result, most records pertaining to the

comfort women were destroyed just before the surrender in August 1945

128 . Justifications for the

institution of military brothels by the Japanese army included not only maintaining a good public

image, but also avoid causing fear and hatred by rape that bolstered enemy resistance,

avoiding the spread of sexually transmitted disease through medically-screened prostitutes, and

more carefully selecting socially isolated women who were incapable of engaging in enemy


129 . Consideration for the sentiments of local populations were more pragmatic in

nature rather than moral, fearing that sewing hatred through rape encouraged insurrection

against the Japanese occupiers. Lieutenant-General Okabe Naozaburo, one of the

masterminds behind the “comfort station” project, wrote in an instructional letter:

According to various information, the reason for such strong anti-Japanese sentiment

[among the local Chinese population] is widespread rape committed by Japanese military

personnel in many places. It is said that such rape is fermenting unexpectedly serious

anti-japanese sentiment… Therefore, frequent occurrence of rape in various places is not

just a matter of criminal law. It is nothing but high treason that breaches public peace and

order, that harms the strategic activities of our entire forces, and that brings serious

trouble to our nation


is necessary to eradicate such acts. Any commander who

see how the same discrimination against class and gender that promoted the traffic of Japanese

women overseas in the Meiji and Taisho periods would later justify the large-scale abduction of other Asian women as military ‘comfort women’ along the Japanese front lines prior to and during World War II” (Yamazaki and Colligan-Taylor, Sandakan Brothel No. 8: An Episode in the History of Lower-Class Japanese Women,XIII)

127 Argibay, “Sexual Slavery and the Comfort Women of World War II”, 375

128 Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the US Occupation,8

129 Argibay, “Sexual Slavery and the Comfort Women of World War II”, 377




tolerates rape must be condemned as a disloyal subject

Therefore it is of vital

importance that individual acts by our military personnel be strictly controlled, and that, at

the same time, facilities for sexual pleasure be established promptly, in order to prevent

our men from inadvertently breaking the law due to the lack of such facilities.” 130

Every army considers how soldiers are expected to conduct themselves in an occupation

zone, with rape being a major concern. The Japanese Army was more concerned with its

own reputation in the face of international scrutiny than the treatment of the women

themselves. The rape and sexual slavery by themselves however became tools to assert

Japanese dominance over Chinese civilians by paying no legal consideration for the

wellbeing of the women of occupied cities.

Only about 25% of all comfort women actually survived the war

131 , many of whom were

left sterile and infected by sexually transmitted diseases

132 . During a 1991 lawsuit against the

Japanese government by former Korean comfort women, one of the women Kim Haku Soon

presented her story:

“When I was 17 years old, the Japanese soldiers came along in a truck, beat us, and then

dragged us into the back. I was told that if I were drafted, I could earn lots of money at the

textile company… The first day I was raped and the rapes never stopped.” 133

Another former comfort woman Kum Ja Hwang presented her own detailed story:

“I thought I was drafted as a labour worker when, at the age of 17, the Japanese village

leader’s wife ordered all unmarried Korean girls to go to work at a Japanese military

factory. I worked there for three years, until the day that I was asked to follow a Japanese

soldier into his tent. He told me to take my clothes off. I resisted because I was so scared,

I was still a virgin. But he just ripped my skirt and cut my underwear from my body with a

gun which had a knife attached to it. At that point I fainted. And when I woke up again, I

was covered with a blanket but there was blood everywhere.

130 Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the US Occupation,16

131 De Brouwer, Supernational Criminal Prosecution of Sexual Violence: The ICC and the Practice of the ICTY and the ICTR, 8

132 Unlike the prostitutes, the soldiers were not screened by physicians for sexually transmitted diseases.

133 Watanabe, “Trafficking in Women’s Bodies, Then and Now: The Issue of Military ‘Comfort Women’”, 19


From then on, I realized that during the first year I, like all the other Korean girls with me,

was ordered to service high-ranking officials, and as time passed, and as we were more

and more ‘used,’ we served lower-ranking officers. If a woman got a disease, she usually

vanished. We were also given ‘606-shots’ so that we would not get pregnant or that any

pregnancies would result in miscarriage.

We only received clothes two times per year and not enough food, only rice cakes and

water. I was never paid for my ‘services,’ I worked for five years as a “comfort woman,”

but all my life I suffered from it. My intestines are mostly removed because they were

infected so many times, I have not been able to have intercourse because of the painful

and shameful experiences. I cannot drink milk or fruit juices without feeling sick because

it reminds me too much of those dirty things they made me do.” 134

Kazuko Watanabe also described based on the 1991 case that these women were “made to

service an average of thirty to forty soldiers per day, with Japanese soldiers standing in line

outside a small room waiting for their turn.”

135 Aso Tetsuo, a Japanese military doctor during

World War II, testified to the court the ethos of the clientels, describing the women as being

treated like “female ammunition” and “public toilets.”140 Watanabe also describes racial

discrimination in practice, with Korean and Chinese women reserved for low-ranking soldiers,

while Japanese and white women were reserved for higher officials and officers. Many former

comfort women gained the confidence to share their stories after Chuo University history

professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki on January 16, 1992, discovered documents in the library of Japan’s

Self Defense Force in Tokyo that incriminated the government’s sponsorship of forced

prostitution during the war, as the government had previously denied the claims

136 . Former

Dutch comfort women had spoken up in the 1970’s.

* *



Japan, Patriarchal Idealism, and Maternal Feminism

* *



134 Kim, “The Comfort Women System: Sexual Slavery during World War II”, 33

135 Watanabe, “Trafficking in Women’s Bodies, Then and Now: The Issue of Military ‘Comfort Women’”, 20

136 Watanabe, “Trafficking in Women’s Bodies, Then and Now: The Issue of Military ‘Comfort Women’”, 21


To Chinese women, Japan was the gravest threat of the era to their sovereignty,

reacting to their atrocities in Manchuria as well as during the occupation. After 1927, Japan

became a military oligarchy, poised to establish its position on the continent. The country was

threatened by the Soviet Union, and their establishment on the mainland served as a means to

strengthen Japan in the likely event of a Soviet incursion

137 , not even favouring open hostilities

with China until the Marco Polo Bridge incident in 1937. Japan supported anti-Communism at



and abroad in China


, and like China considered feminism to be a proponent of

Communism that threatened Japanese society. Feminist organizations were heavily

suppressed, even violently on occasions, to usher greater patriarchal support. Into the

Sino-Japanese war however the Japanese government was very reluctant to recruit the

services of women to aid in the war effort. Up until 1943, women were still largely encouraged to

occupy traditional roles, and the Japanese government never issued an official economic

mobilization of women during the war

role in the war:

140 . Prime Minister Hideki Tojo announced the woman’s

“That warm fountainhead which protects the household, assumes responsibility for

rearing children, and causes women, children, brothers, and sisters to act as support for

the front lines is based on the family system. This is the natural mission of the women in

our empire and must be preserved far into the future.” 141

Japan had not anticipated a total war by 1937, and no mobilization plans were made with

women taking more active roles in mind

142 . The lack of a women’s mobilization plan is unusual

for the state of the war, as nearly every other belligerent nation had incorporated women in

137 “Lieutenant General Araki Sadao had become army minister with the cabinet change of December 1931. Although Araki also believed in pushing forward with a total mobilization plan, he was certain that the Soviet Union was actively preparing for war with Japan” (Barnhard 34)

138 “On the second May Day march staged in Japan (in 1921), the Sekirankai, [a women’s organization that plans to build a socialist society], marched with its banner. The police charged on them, and many of them were arrested” (Hane 127)

139 “Under Japanese pressure, seven members of this worker’s committee were arrested by the government, charged with ‘endangering the safety of the Republic,’ for which the maximum penalty was death” (Li Yu-ning, Chinese Women through Chinese Eyes)

140 Havens, “Women and War in Japan, 1937-45”, 916.

141 Havens, “Women and War in Japan, 1937-45”, 920.

142 Specifically with active women’s roles in mind. Japan did take on a herculean effort preparing for total war mobilization in other regards during the interwar period.


some way to the total war process. Female labour in Japan during the war only rose by ten

percent between 1940 and 1955 compared to figures in the United States and Soviet Union in

the fiftieth percentile

143 , and industrial labour declined when even in Germany women’s

industrial labour increased by ten percent.

Controversy came from the Imperial court. By 1940 Japan was in a full state of total war,

and the mobilization of women became a considered issue for the war cabinet and imperial

court. Sakaguchi Takenosuke, chairman of the prefectural assembly in 1942, recommended to

the Imperial Rule Assistance Association to use more women as agricultural technicians due to

shortages in manpower. He included a moral argument regarding increasing women’s education

and self-awareness, saying:

“We have adhered unconsciously for too long to the ancient Japanese female virtue

which says that men lead and women follow. Their natural spirit of autonomy and self

management has been suppressed, and their creative powers have been regarded as

mere desperation. Times have changed, and today, when conditions are stringent, the

most urgent business for women’s education is to encourage activity by women and to

heighten their self-respect. It is not very simple to heighten self-respect, but the first thing

to be done is to give young women the ability to believe in themselves. There is no way to

acquire this ability except to give young women sufficient amounts of systematic practical

education in school.” 144

Sakaguchi’s stance was rather unusual for the ethos of the Imperial Japanese government.

Even minister of welfare Koizumi Chikahiko, recognizing the enemy’s use of a female labour

force, advised against the drafting of women in Japan out of “consideration for the family

system.”118 . Nakamura Shinroku, another leader expressed his agreement at the same

conference on a more conservative stance, believing that educated women could bolster

patriotic fervor at home

145 . No official reforms were made, and women’s involvement in the war

still remained volunteer based rather than full mobilization, and still limited to home or soft tasks.

143 Havens, “Women and War in Japan, 1937-45”, 918.

144 Havens, “Women and War in Japan, 1937-45”, 920

145 Havens, “Women and War in Japan, 1937-45”, 921


In spite of the suppression of feminist movements during the war, maternal feminism

(bosei shugisha)saw a small rise in prominence in gendered politics. As discussed in the first

chapter, maternal feminism was the belief in distinct social roles between men and women, and

valued equality in respect rather than equality in rights. These feminists supported conservative

social roles, and did not challenge the authority of the military state, which served as an asset

for the government to guide feminist proponents towards a more politically correct path. Rights

that would further mothers’ contribution to the state became preferred discussion topics, not only

by the state but also by feminist organizations as well, especially the previously discussed

feminist writer Hiratsuka Raichō and Ichikawa Fusae, the writer who argued with Hiratsuka

Raichō over maternal feminism. Maternal feminism flirted with eugenics studies in the 1930’s.

The movement had already been working towards the improvement of women’s lives in their

medical lives, such as advocating health checks for husbands, the legalization of abortion,

however these points were guided towards the state’s needs for a bolstered population growth,

and a fit one at that. Several years earlier the Eugenic Marriage Popularization Society (a

male-run women’s organization) was founded privately to promote its namesake marriage


146 , which on November 11th, 1935, became an affiliate of the Association of Race

Hygiene lead by Tokyo University physiologist and prominent eugenicist Nagai Hisomu

147 . In

March of 1936 psychiatrist Yasui Hiroshi wrote in Society’s monthly journal Yusei:

- “The purpose of marriage is the wellbeing of family and the prosperity of


- To achieve the well-being of family and the prosperity of descendants, one has to

be selective about the quality of his or her spouse. Women, whose fate is often

determined by marriage, need to be particularly careful.

- Marriage customs based on the superstitions and traditions will be things of the


- Rational selection based on eugenics is desirable for modern people and should

replace the old forms of marriage.

146 Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 43

147 Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 44


- Choosing a spouse of good quality, avoiding one of poor quality, and ensuring

the physical and mental fitness of descendants is a source of the well-being of

immediate as well as extended family in a smaller context. It is also the

foundation of the betterment of state (kokka) and race (minzoku) in a larger


- Popularization of eugenic marriage, which aims at family well-being and the

racial purification (minzoku joka), is the effort of highest moral value.” 148

The feminist investment into eugenics had incidents of being taken to the extreme, albeit not

frequently. One incident occurred in 1935, when Tokuda Eiko murdered her elder brother, her

confession recorded by Yusei:

“The Mendelian Law would not allow the birth of good human beings from parents who

were alcoholic and sexually dissolute. Eugenically speaking, it cannot be denied that

even if there were no effect on their children, the curse of the parents' genes would

appear in the grandchildren's generation. Those who have parents as undesirable as

ours should not produce any descendants. Doing so means poisoning the society.

Because of this, I have never been interested in repeated offers of marriage, nor have I

been romantically involved with anyone. When my mother consulted me about killing the

ill behaved brother (furyõ no ani), I did not hesitate to support her plan since getting rid of

an inferior human would serve the society and help my poor

My father was

vicious when he was drunk. He was also a philanderer. He had a shallow, cruel

personality. My maternal grandfather was also violent when he was drunk and did not

care about the family. Thus my grandmother divorced him when my mother was three.

There is no way that we, offspring of these parents, will have desirable descendants.” 149


Another less extreme initiative was reported about a woman named Fujioka Ruriko who

introduced the tenets of eugenics by rejecting a traditionally luxurious marriage ceremony with a

148 Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 46-47

149 Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 48

150 The police had identified the crime as fratricide for insurance fraud (Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 48)


more modest ceremony, and an exchange of medical documents with her fiancé

151 . This caught

the eye of local prefecture governments who officially encouraged this new practice. When the

EMPS was merged into the government in 1937, the society became one of the only

organizations where which its women officers could engage in state management. For example,

psychologist and maternalist Kōra Tomiko developed training programs to educate high school

students in eugenics and mold female students into “ideal brides” in association with the Satō

Institute for New Home Life

152 . By 1940, Kōra became “the only woman representative on the

central committee of the government-controlled Imperial Rule Assistance Association in

December 1940.”127 Here she established a bureau for women, where she helped unite many of

the existing women’s associations into the “Greater Japan Women’s Association,” which in 1942

started a health campaign that promoted marriage and disease prevention. Similar stories

include Takeuchi Shigeyo, who also led eugenics tutorials to encourage maternalist values, this

time to male audiences in universities

153 . Despite the quite questionable morality of these

developments in the 1930’s and 1940’s, they did make successes in elevating women past the

perception of what they called “borrowed wombs” into a non-identical yet equally worthy one to

men, a perception even held by eugenics-head Nagai



The success of maternalism during the Showa Period

155 of Japan can in some ways be

considered an antithesis to the failure of the joken shugisha, the proponents of total

egalitarianism between the sexes who were captured by state agencies for alleged communist

sympathies, due to its flirtation with fascism. Though there were fascist sympathies even among

the maternalists

156 , there was also a pragmatic element to this development. Outside policies

151 Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 50

152 Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 55

153 (Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 56)

154 “Nagai himself contended that it was not productive to debate which sex is superior to the other and criticized the adherents of the "predominance of men over women" ( danson johi ) view. Biologically

speaking, their bodies differ to accomplish equally worthy but different task

dynamic and egoistic, women are more static and altruistic. The two sexes are meant to supplement each other in order to fulfill their lives” (Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 52)

155 1926-1989, 1926-1945 for the militarist pre-war and war-time government.

156 “Japanese women who sought maternal eugenic programs accepted unthinkingly the more reprehensible racial and class biases of eugenics, thereby reflecting their own privileged status as members of the middle class.” (Otsubo, “Feminist Maternal Eugenics in Wartime Japan”, 62)

While men are more


that furthered pro-military and eugenics agendas, the government made no other concessions

for furthering women’s rights. The maternalists were a tolerable advocacy group because the

issues they pressed were convenient to the militarist atmosphere of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Figures like Takeuchi Shigeyo and Kōra Tomiko used their eugenics tutorials to also further the

political participation of women in general, as they themselves had reached positions in the

state that very few women had ever reached before. Maternalism became a means by which

feminists could push for women’s rights within a fascist regime. Yamakawa Kikue, a prominent

socialist activist who fit the joken shugishacategory who would also play a more prominent role

in post-war feminism in Japan popularizingjoken shugisha idealsover bosei shugishaideals,

was threatened arrest during the war, limiting her writing to politically correct historical

documentation until the American occupation

rights advocacy came from the left.

* *

157 . Political repression ensured very little women’s



Women in the Raj

* *



The war came to an India under a social revolution that had already been brewing by the

Satyagraha movement. The Raj was at its tail end of its existence, now as even many British

politicians began to support India’s independence. India had already participated in the First

World War with quashed enthusiasm to the prospect of winning independence as compensation

for military loyalty, and that similar enthusiasm remained at the start of the Second World War.

For some, independence was not even a forefront matter, instead recognizing the opportunities

the war provided. The horrors of war barely reached Indian soil, as the Japanese were repelled

back towards Burma in Imphal and Kohima in 1944, and India suffered limited aerial

bombardment. This created a strange situation where the nation was divided on allegiances,

with many vehemently loyal to the British cause, some like Gandhi recognizing the threat of Axis

aggression, and others turning to the Axis to fight the British in the Indian National Army lead by


officer Mohan Singh and later independence leader Subhas Chandra Bose. Just as the men did,

women took sides that supported their needs and personal convictions.

The British Raj enlisted the services of thousands of Indian women to hard labour,

construction, and auxiliary duties. These women worked in mines, and also worked near the

North Eastern boarder and in Burma to build military infrastructure like airfields and roads.

Around 11,500 women were recruited into the Indian Auxiliary Corps, which involved

predominantly clerical duties like paper keeping and telephony

158 , and among whom around

1,160 were appointed officers and participated in strategic command

159160 . Unlike the men’s

combat units, women’s auxiliaries were not racially segregated, working alongside British

auxiliaries. Indian nurses treated Indian, British, Australian, and American casualties alike. Much

of this recruitment was in continuation of the same processes exercised during the First World

War, and mirrored greatly the protocols of women’s work in Britain. Unlike in Britain however,

Indian women were not conscripted into the workforce, and there was still racial discrimination in

regards who whom was recruited into the auxiliaries compared to hard labour. Most Indian

auxiliaries were either Christians, and/or mixed race

161 . While thousands of Allied troops were

stationed in India, the Raj police maintained strict control over movement as to restrict

interaction between native Indians and white foreign troops, fearing the spread of sexually

transmitted diseases under the continued presumption of the sexual eastern female

162 . White

soldiers who engaged in sexual relations with native “coolie” women were described as having

done so as a “last resort”125 . Though there were more work opportunities for women in India,

racism and the already existing sexism still largely either restricted women to subservient roles,

or risked earning a woman indignity. Entertainment and sexual labour was also recruited by the

158 Khan, “Sex in an Imperial War Zon: Transnational Encounters in Second World War India”, 242

159 “Women's Auxiliary Corps (India) World War II photograph album” University of Pennsylvania Finding Aids

160 Khan, “Sex in an Imperial War Zon: Transnational Encounters in Second World War India”, 242

161 “Women's Auxiliary Corps (India) World War II photograph album” University of Pennsylvania Finding Aids

162 (Khan, “Sex in an Imperial War Zon: Transnational Encounters in Second World War India”, 246)


British Indian Army, favouring Anglo-Indians, and even white British women were subject to

some of the same gender discrimination as their Indian coworkers



In 1942, after the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, former Indian officers organized the

Indian National Army in alliance with the Japanese to try and liberate India. The INA followed

Japan through its campaign in Burma, typically in a more expedient and subservient position.

Compared to Japanese forces, the INA was very small, and limited in power, and Bose had

banked more on the morale the presence of the INA would provide for possible Indian

revolutionaries who could topple the Raj from the inside

164 . Bose’s political ideology is a matter

up for debate, as he is accused of fascist sympathies for his treason against the British Raj,

while at the same described with socialist sympathies

165 , more closely aligned with Stalin than

prominent Fascist leaders. His left-wing leanings and right-wing allegiances left him an awkward

position when he recruited women into his Rani of Jhansi regiment, staffed by Indian nurses

also trained for combatant roles, and lead by physician Captain Lakshmi Swaminathan

166 , a

prominent women’s nationalist and communist sympathizer. While status quo gender

relationships were maintained in the Satyagraha movement, the INA recruited more women,

albeit from limited available numbers, to serve more active duties, following along lines similar to

that of the Soviet Union. This occured to the ire of Japanese liaisons, who saw the regiment as

an affront to Japanese nationalism and traditions

167 , harking back previously to the supreme

163 “the way that women’s labour was harnessed to war subordinated them to the war effort, locking them into a patriarchal web of militarization and military intervention. Importantly, this transcended race and meant that many women, from diverse places and backgrounds, had their welfare relegated to a secondary position; in every encounter the needs of the (male) military were privileged” (Khan, “Sex in an Imperial War Zon: Transnational Encounters in Second World War India”, 242)

164 Lebra, The Indian National Army and Japan, 120

165 You cannot have a so-called democratic system, if that system has to put through economic reforms on a socialistic basis. Therefore we must have a political system – a State – of an authoritarian character. We have had some experience of democratic institutions in India and we have also studied the working of democratic institutions in countries like France, England and United States of America. And we have come to the conclusion that with a democratic system we cannot solve the problems of Free India. Therefore, modern progressive thought in India is in favour of a State of an authoritarian character"(Bose and Bose, The

Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose319-20)

166 Lebra,