Sexual Violence in History: A Bibliography

compiled by Stefan Blaschke


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First published: March 1, 2024 - Last updated: March 1, 2024


Speaker: Kristin A Roebuck

Title: Rape, Race, and Eugenic Abortion in Occupied Japan

Subtitle: -

Conference: Annual Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (March 1: Virtual, March 14-17, 2024: In-Person) - Online Program

Session: E033 - Militarized Power in “Demilitarized” Japan, 1945-1952 (Chair: Sabine Frühstück)

Place: Seattle, Washington, United States

Date: March 15, 2024

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | Asian History: Japanese History | Types: Rape; Victims: Physical Consequences / Abortion


Links: -


Speaker: Kristin A Roebuck, Department of History, Cornell University -

Abstract: »Three years after defeat in World War II and midway through the Allied occupation, Japan’s government reversed its longstanding policy of criminalizing abortion. The law that inaugurated this shift, the 1948 Eugenic Protection Law, endorsed abortion as a means of managing the “quality and quantity” of Japan’s population. Scholarship on the links between eugenics and the decriminalization of abortion in Japan is vast, but is oddly quiet on issues of rape and race. Why did a 1948 law designed to block the births of “inferior descendants” approve abortion in cases of rape? The eugenic stakes of rape are rooted in a narrative of victimization foregrounding the rape of Japanese women by foreign soldiers stereotyped as members of sexually aggressive foreign “races.” Thus, while the Eugenic Protection Law gave no de jure standing to race as grounds for abortion, the fact that rape was coded as a racial threat rendered the Law de facto a tool for racial engineering. Although it was politically impossible for Japanese officials to impose abortions outright on women who might be pregnant with children of Japan’s conquerors, such women were nonetheless targeted for eugenic intervention. For these women, abortion was not an option granted by a democratic government newly concerned with women’s rights. Abortion was an imperative imposed by a diverse array of governmental and non-governmental actors uniting behind an emerging orthodoxy of racial purity.« (Source: Online Program)

Wikipedia: History of Asia: History of Japan / History of Japan | Pregnancy: Abortion | Sex and the law: Rape / Rape in Japan