Briefing Paper prepared by the KAISA-KA OR PAGKAKAISA NG KABABAIHAN PARA SA INANG BAYAN
(Unity of Women for the Motherland)
March 8, 2002
Negative effects of U.S. militarism on women and children in East Asia include sexual exploitation, physical and sexual violence, and the dire situation of many Amerasian children.
Violence against women often goes unreported due to the victim’s shame and fear along with their belief that perpetrators will remain beyond the reach of the law.
Women who work in bars, massage parlors, and brothels near U.S. bases are particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual violence. The sexual activity of foreign-based U.S. military personnel, including (but not exclusively) prostitution, has had very serious effects on women’s health, precipitating HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, drug and alcohol dependency, and mental illness.
Military personnel are also trained to demanize “others” as part of their preparation for war. Their pent-up frustration, aggression, and fear are absorbed by East Asian communities, especially women and children, through reckless driving, assaults, and military prostitution.
Sexism is central to a militarized masculinity, which involves physical strength, emotional detachment, the capacity for violence and killing, and an appearance of invulnerability. Male sexuality is assumed to be uncontrollable and in need of regular release, so prostitution is built into military operations, directly or indirectly, with the agreement of host governments.
Joint Vision 2020, a Pentagon planning document, concluded that the US government declared it will maintain 100,000 troops in East Asia.
There were extensive US bases in the Philippines until 1992. In 1991, the Philippine Senate voted against renewal of their leases. The US subsequently proposed a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to cover situations when US troops are in the Philippines for joint exercises or shore leave. The VFA gives US troops access to Philippine ports and airports on all the main islands for refueling, supplies, repairs, and rest and recreation or R & R — potentially far greater access than before. Now, it is under the guise of commercial arrangements and without the expense of maintaining permanent workforces and facilities. The VFA was ratified by the Philippine Senate in May 1999.
According to reports between 1947 and 1980, more than 48 Filipinos, more than three fourths of them women and children, were murdered in or near the periphery of the bases –shot like wild boar, hit by strafing of US jets or attacked by trained police dogs. However, many organizations suspect that many deaths related to the US military presence here in the country have either been underreported or purposely covered up as none of the involved US servicemen has ever been tried in a Philippine court.
In Olongapo City alone, 4,356 women are licensed to work as “hospitality girls”. In Angeles City, where there are around 500 bars, these hospitality girls number 3,430; in Subic, 348; and Mabalacat, 300. These numbers are understated, for they do not include the unlicensed streetwalkers, who if combined with the licensed hospitality girls, would number around 9,000 in Olongapo City alone and 7,000 in Angeles City. The figures of Filipino women degraded into prostitution are not cited by those in favor of US bases as they claim these installations provide significant employment for Filipinos.
The US bases when they were still in the Philippines, were sitting on vast prime agricultural and mineral land which could otherwise be productively used by the Filipinos themselves.
On the Aetas, a Negroid tribe in Luzon, various studies showed that they were reduced into scavengers of military refuse, makers of war objects & replica, hired as jungle trainors, but deprived of their indigenous domains. Living very adjacent to the US training sites, some have been maimed or killed by jets, bombs or while gathering spent bullets in those sites.
At least 41 full-blown HIV-positive cases were recorded here between 1985 to 1991, doments from the Angeles City’s AIDS Task Force showed. Nine have died so far, eight of them women and a male gay. In September 1998, two more commercial sex workers contacted Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) , bringing to eight the number of such persons actively monitored by the city’s health council.
Environmental contamination affects whole communities but is most significant for women and children, because they tend to show signs of disease earlier than men. The military bases cause more pollution than any other institutions. Bases store fuel, oil, solvents, and other chemicals as well as weapons, including defoliants like Agent Orange, depleted uranium-tipped bullets, and nuclear weapons. The Status of Forces Agreements(SOFAs) between the US and host governments ensure legal protection for US bases and military personnel but do not adequately protect local communities from crimes committed by US troops. The US accepts no legal responsibility for environmental cleanup of bases.
The drinking water from wells in the area of former Clark Air Force Base (Philippines) is contaminated with oil and grease. At 21 of the 24 locations where groundwater samples were taken, pollutants that exceeded drinking water standards were found, including mercury, nitrate, coliform bacteria, lead, dieldrin, and solvents. These contaminants persist in the environment for a long time and bio-accumulate as they move up the food chain.
In South Korea, Japan and the Philippines, Amerasian children born to women impregnated by US troops are stigmatized. They are often abandoned by their military fathers and raised by single Asian mothers. They live with severe prejudice and suffer discrimination in education and employment due to their physical appearance and their mothers’ low status. Those with African-American fathers face even worse treatment than those having white fathers.
Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) , including the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) , make no reference to Amerasian children, who are often abandoned by their fathers. No government takes responsibility for the dire situation of these children, who have no legal standing in the United States. The 1982 Amerasian Immigration Act which sought to address the situation of Vietnamese Amerasian children, does not cover the people born in Japan or the Philippines. To qualify under this act, one must also be born between 1951 and 1982. One must also have documentation that the father is a US citizen, formal admission of paternity, and a financial sponsor in the United States.
Currently, there are 37,000 US military personnel in Korea. In Korea, too, the number of crimes against women are high. A particularly brutal rape and murder of a barwoman, Yoon Kum Ee, in 1992, galvanized human rights advocates to establish the National Campaign for the Eradication of Crime by US Troops in Korea in order to document these crimes and help victims claim redress.
There are 63,000 US troops in Japan, including 13,000 on ships home-ported there. The islands of Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan, house 39 bases and installations(75% of all US bases in Japan) although Okinawa is only 0.6% of the country’s land area. Stationed in Okinawa are 30,000 troops and another 22,500 family members.
Contributing to the focus of the US military’s impact on women was another incident in Okinawa of sexual harassment a couple of weeks before the July 2000 Summit — this case involving a drunken Marine accused of molesting a 14-year old schoolgirl while she slept in her home.
In Okinawa, a 1996 report on babies born to women living near Kadena Air Force Base showed significantly lower weights than those born in any other part of Japan, attributable to severe noise generated by the base. At White Beach, a docking area for nuclear submarines, regional health statistics show comparatively high rates of leukemia in children and cancers in adults. In 1998, for example, two women from White Beach who were in the habit of gathering local shellfish and seaweed died of liver cancer.
Research conducted by a group called Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence shows that US troops in Okinawa have committed more than 4,700 reported crimes since 1972, when Okinawa reverted to Japanese administration. Many of these crimes were violence against women.
KAISA-KA Study on Women and US Military Presence.
East Asia-US Women’s Network Against US Militarism, by Gwyn Kirk, Rachel Cornwell and Margo Okazawa-Rey.
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