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Date: Wed, 14 Oct 98 10:41:01 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: USA: U.S. Troops Abuse Women in Asia, Coalition Charges
Article: 45285
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.8099.19981015181624@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** headlines: 158.0 **/
** Topic: USA: U.S. Troops Abuse Women in Asia, Coalition Charges **
** Written 11:41 AM Oct 13, 1998 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 4:17 PM Oct 12, 1998 by newsdesk@igc.org in ips.english */
/* ---------- "RIGHTS-WOMEN: Women Demand End to M" ---------- */

Women Demand End to Military Violence

By Danielle Knight, IPS
9 October 1998

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 (IPS) - An international coalition of women's organisations, based in Asia and the United States, is demanding changes in military agreements they say allows violence against women.

More than 50 women activists from Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines and the United States held meetings in Washington this week with Congress and government officials to protest against murder, rape and sexual exploitation committed by U.S. military personnel in Asia.

They want significant changes in international military policy agreements which, they say, has fostered a "pattern of violence against women" as the accords protect military personnel from being held accountable for crimes committed in another country.

"Acts of violence committed by U.S. military personnel against local community women and children,...happen far to often to be overlooked or be accepted as random occurrences," says Margo Okazawa-Rey, one of the organizers of the East Asia/U.S. Women's Network Against U.S. Militarism.

"While agreements between the United States and host governments ensure legal protection for U.S. bases and military personnel, they do not provide security for local communities or the physical environment," says Okazawa-Rey, who is also a a professor of social work at San Francisco State University.

Such treaties include the Status of Forces Agreements with Japan and Korea and the proposed Visiting Forces Agreement between the United States and the Philippines.

A delegation of women from the Japense island of Okinawa - scene of ones of the bloodiest battles of World War II - is calling for more than just policy changes. Charging that military bases have disturbed life on their island for more than half a century, the Okinawa Women's Peace Caravan is calling for the dismantling of 42 U.S. military bases.

"Fifty-three years is long enough. We have really suffered," says Suzuyo Takazato, director of the Japan-based Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence. "'Prostitution and rape are the military system's outlets for pent up aggression and methods of maintaining control and discipline - the target being local community women."

The rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995 sparked the women and uncover a wider trend of sexual violence by the military on the island.

"More marines and navy sailors were tried for rapes, child molestation's and other sexual assaults at bases in Japan than at at any other military site in the world," she says.

Computer records of Navy and Marine Corps cases since 1988 show bases in Japan with a total of 41,008 personnel, held 169 courts martial for sexual assaults, she says. This was 66 percent more than the second location, San Diego, California, which had 102 cases out of 93,792 personnel.

A similar pattern of abuse has been recorded by women's organisations in South Korea.

A Korean Congressional report estimated that more than 30,000 crimes were committed by U.S. military personnel against Korean civilians between 1967 and 1987 which included murder, brutal rapes and sexual abuse, according to Yu Jin Jeong, director of the Seoul-based National Campaign to Eradicate Crime by U.S. Troops in Korea.

She says that U.S. troops are protected by Status of Forces Agreement which provides them with immunity from prosecution for offenses which they may commit while deployed in the country. Therefore, she says, charges rarely come under the jurisdiction of local courts while military authorities tend to dismiss them.

"The US Army displays a certain arrogance in claiming that it came here to protect Korea and yet disrespects Korean citizens," says Yu Jin Jeong. Like organisations in Okinawa, National Campaign were formed after the brutal murder and rape of a woman by military personnel stationed in Korea in 1992.

Groups in the Philippines, say the U.S. military presence in the country has caused an "epidemic" of prostitution. Near military bases, prostitution still continues in the Philippines even though U.S. bases were withdrawn in 1992.

Women's organisations warn that the recently signed Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows for the resumption of joint military exercises and U.S. warship visits to the Philippines, will only make the problem of prostitution worse.

"We believe the ratification of the agreement will exacerbate the ongoing sexual exploitation of our people, particularly poor women and children who are vulnerable to prostitution," says Aida Santos, director of the Quezon City, Philippines-based Women's Education, Development, Productivity and Research Organisation.

"The presence of the US forces in the country, by whatever name and by whatever agreement, will only aggravate the problem of prostitution and trafficking in women and children," she says.

Prostitution near former or present U.S. military installation throughout Asia has had a very serious effect of women's health, including increases in HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, according to Santos.

Children fathered by U.S. military personnel are often abandoned and discriminated against by the local community, say the groups.

A Defense Department spokesman, Major Bryan Salas, says the Pentagon is taking the women group's concerns "very seriously."

"American troops are not in the region for the convenience of the United States," he says. "They are in the region because both the United States and Japanese governments believe they are an essential element in preserving the security and stability of the Asian Pacific region."

But for whom is the U.S. military presence in Asia preserving such security?," asks Suzuyo Takazato. Echoing other activists' concerns that concept of security needs to be "de- militarized," she says that "we must ask: what is security, what is safety."

"It's not just Asia...the military harms plenty of people in this county," says Okazawa-Rey. "Social programs in health and education - programs which especially benefit women and children - have been cut while the military budget remains sacrosanct."

Young people in the United States, especially those who are minorities and poor, are recruited into the military in the absence of job training and educational opportunities, she says.

"For many young African Americans there are three options: the military, the drug trade or incarceration - what kind of choice it that," asks Okazawa-Rey.



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