Passed by the State Senate in June, the “comfort women” legislation would amend opening paragraphs of the State Education Law to include curriculum instruction on the violence against women during periods of armed conflict, including the time when nearly 400,000 women were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army that occupied Korea during WWII.
State Senator Tony Avella explained that teaching this history in state schools is something that is important on many levels.
“We have too many situations, even occurring today, of sex trafficking all across the globe,” Avella said. “Whether it’s happening today or in the past, we should call it what it is: an atrocity against women.”
Although the bill has seen resistance in the Assembly, Avella said he is hopeful it will be revisited during a special session in November.
“Hopefully we can get an Assembly sponsor and pass it in the Assembly,” he said. “If not, when we go out next session I will reintroduce the bill.”
In addition to the history of the inclusion of curriculum surrounding the “comfort women,” the bill - introduced by Avella - would also require SUNY schools to recommend courses in historical events like the Holocaust and the mass starvation of Ireland from 1845 to 1850.
As explained in the bill, the inclusion of these historical events would be built-in in order to “prescribe courses of instruction in patriotism, citizenship and human rights issues.”
“Some people in the Assembly don’t get it, and they think it’s an international issue and isn’t important to the people who live here,” Avella said. “I think if we keep moving the ball down the court, we’ll eventually get this done.”
Christina Culligan of the Korean Parents Association of NY joined Avella last week at his office on Bell Boulevard in Bayside to urge state lawmakers to bring the bill to a vote.
“Justice must be served to teach children that this is a major violation of a woman’s human rights,’ Culligan said.
Community activist Adam Kim said because much of the world still does not recognize the severity of what happened in the not-so-distant past, teaching this history in public schools is an obligation.
“This is a giant step because up till now, all New York students didn’t know what happened to the comfort women in WWII,” he said. “However the Japanese still do not recognize this.”