From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Women demand security from crimes by U.S. military personnel

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 14 Oct 1998 14:22:56

Oct. 14, 1998	Contact: Joretta Purdue (202)546-8722 Washington  {593}

WASHINGTON (UMNS) Acts of violence committed by U.S. military personnel
against women and children happen far too often to be overlooked or
accepted as random events, according to a group pushing for more
controls on members of the armed services.

The East Asia/U.S. Women's Network wants to change the U.S. policies
that govern crimes committed by the military against women, children and
their environment. Such crimes, the group said, are often protected by
legal or de facto agreements that result in authorities looking the
other way or otherwise failing to prosecute U.S. military personnel.

The network met Oct. 8-13, with 20 women from three Asian countries and
more than 30 women from the United States participating. They
represented groups from Japan, Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, as well
as the United States.

In this second international working meeting, the women called for the
United States to redefine security to include women and children. The
meeting was sponsored by the Asia Pacific Center for Peace and Justice,
which has ties to the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and
Board of Church and Society. Financial support for the meeting was
provided by the Women's Division of the Board of Global Ministries and
other groups.

In terms of getting the media attention that could bring public support,
the timing of the network's meeting could not have been worse. It was
sandwiched between the Oct. 8 decision by the U.S. 
House of Representatives to pursue the third-ever impeachment
investigation against a president and the ongoing attempts to fund the
federal government for the year that began Oct. 1.

The network is calling for the establishment of support systems for
survivors of violence to help them seek justice and legal protection.
The group also wants firm environmental guidelines established to clean
up toxic contamination as part of redefining security.

Susuyo Takazato, a member of the Naha City, Okinawa, Assembly, spoke
about the Oct. 7 incident that left an 18-year-old high school student
in critical condition with severe brain damage after a hit-and-run
accident for which a Marine corporal is being held. The Marine failed
two breathalyzer tests.

Takazato was one of the spokeswomen from women's groups in three East
Asian countries where the United States has military bases. She said
that there have also been many murders and rapes in the more than 50
years in which the U.S. military have "had free run" of the island.
Okinawans remain angry over the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan
schoolgirl by three U.S. serviceman.

"Our safety, our security is severely violated" under the Status of
Forces agreement, she said, referring to a U.S. policy that provides
legal protection for military bases and personnel but offers 
no protection to local communities and the environment.

Takazato comes from a family that was Methodist before the occupying
Japanese army combined all the Protestant churches on Okinawa into one
united church to better control it, she told United Methodist News
Service. She received part of her education through a United Methodist
Women scholarship, which allowed her to attend a school in Manila.

Takazato asked why security is provided only for the foreign government,
the United States, but not for women and children in the community.

The statement prepared by the 55 women was read by Margo Okazawa-Rey, a
professor at the School of Social Work, San Francisco State University.

"We also believe that the U.S. military system has negative impacts on
the lives of women and children in the United States," Okazawa-Rey
continued. She pointed to high military spending while programs for
health care and education that especially benefit women and children
have been cut.
According to a Korean Congressional report cited on a network fact
sheet, 39,542 crimes were committed by U.S. military personnel against
Korean civilians between 1967 and 1987. Those crimes included murder,
rape and sexual abuse, theft, fraud and traffic offenses, according to
the report. U.S. troops rarely are disciplined by the military or come
under the jurisdiction of local courts, the network said.

U.S. troops have been stationed in South Korea since the end of World
War II, said Heisoo Shin, director of the Korea Women's Hot Line, a
coalition of 19 organizations in South Korea working to eliminate crimes
against Koreans by military personnel. The country is technically at war
with North Korea, so basic information, such as the number of bases or
personnel, are military secrets. However, Shin said estimates put the
number of U.S. soldiers stationed there at 36,000.

Korean women have been widely exploited on and around the bases, she
said. Recently, women from the Philippines and other Asian countries
also have been brought in especially to work in "entertainment" near the

Amerasian children carry a strong stigma, because the Korean people are
so homogeneous and family centered, she said. Such children do not get a
proper education, rarely get jobs and face severe restrictions if they
want to immigrate to their father's country.

The way the U.S. government treats other people should be an issue for
people in the United States, said Aida Santos, who headed a Filipino
organization against trafficking in women until June. Although the last
naval base in the Philippines has been closed, a new agreement including
provisions from arrangements made in the 1940s, has resulted in 22 sites
for exercises and "the usual R&R" a euphemism for bars and brothels,
Santos said. 

Through these agreements made with "stark disregard for the will of the
Filipino people," she said, the U.S. military has access to the
Philippines, but the Philippines has no jurisdiction over U.S. 
personnel. The agreement was negotiated in total secrecy and has yet to
be published. Santos added that her information comes from "leaked"
copies. No women were involved in these negotiations, she said.

Santos said she sees no reason to invite the United States military into
the Philippines as the country has "no enemies at this time." The only
threat is an internal one, related to the civil war 
that continues in some parts of the country, she said. The Visiting
Forces agreement will lead to more exploitation of Filipino women and
children, she said.

The doctrines that grant immunity to military personnel who abuse women
and children of other countries also protect those people from
responsibility for the abuse of U.S. women and children, 
said Dorothy Mackey, director of Survivors Take Action Against Abuse by
Military Personnel. 

Mackey, though not on the network's meeting program, spoke as a show of
support. She was a captain in the Air Force and has brought a civil case
against two superior officers whom she accuses of sexual harassment. An
appeal is pending.

Murders and rapes go unpunished, regardless of whether the victim is a
civilian or service woman, a military dependent or a child struck by a
military vehicle on the way to school, Mackey said. "This is not an
issue of patriotism. This is a humanitarian issue." 

Network participants had appointments with State Department and other
administration executives and for a congressional briefing. The
Methodist Federation for Social Action, an unofficial organization of
United Methodists, sponsored a briefing for faith-based groups.. 
# # #
United Methodist News Service
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