Friday, November 11, 2005

Women and Armed Conflict
-- Foreign Military Bases as a Source of Violence against Women

Presented by Yayori Matsui

Madam Chairperson, Extinguished delegates,

It is my honor to be given an opportunity to speak to you on behalf of women and children who are victimized by all forms of violence committed by military personnel in foreign military bases. I would like to draw your attention to a major gap in the Beijing Platform for Action concering this issue which was identified at the Asia-Pacific Regional NGO Symposium last month.

The NGOs at the Symposium reviewed the Platform for Action and pointed out the Gap that, while "foreign military occupation" is included in Section E. Women and Armed Conflict, there is no mention to "the effects of the long-term presence of foreign military bases".

It was recommended that the scope of armed conflict should be broadened to include the long-term presence of foreign military bases. The grave violation of human rights of women and children under such situation is an urgent issue that needs to be clearly acknowledged as a part of the Section E. of the Platform for Action.

The women and children living in areas where foreign military bases are present have been and still are exposed to severe cases of rape and other forms of violence by military personnel stationed in Okinawa, Japan and in Korea. The long term presence of military forces in the Philippines has also resulted in the same situation.

Let me explain the situation of Okinawa where 75% of the US military bases in Japan are concentrated , occupying 20% of its land where 27,000 active duty military personnel are stationed under the Japan-US Security Treaty.

A 12 year old school girl was gang raped by three military men in Septermber 1995 during the fourth World Conference on Women. More than 70 Okinawa women who participated in the conference returned home to learn of the incident. The shocked women quickly acted to expose the brutal crime to the world, because the victimized girl courageously raised her voice that such an outrage should never occur again.

The women in Okinawa mobilized a nation-wide campaign and also undertook a reserach to uncover the chronology of the post-war military sexual violence against women. The research resulted in a long growing list of rape and murder of women and children. This included young rape victims who were 9 years old, 6 years old, and even 9 month old baby. There were extreme gang rape cases; where one victim was raped by as many as 30 soldiers. Some were killed.

The report also revealed that the incidents of sexual crime had surged especially during the Viet-Nam War for which Okinawa was used as the key base. This substantiated the fact that the presence of military bases is in itself a source of threat to women and children living in sorrounding areas even if the host country is not directly under war situation. Okinawa became the island of military bases since the end of the World War II under US military rule. The same situation persisted after its return to Japan in 1972, and even after the end of the Cold War. The untold history of rape and murder in Okinawa is linked to this post-war history.

Now we are posed with a new threat to perpetuate this violence against women associated with war. The new US-Japan Defence Guideline recently agreed will function to perpetuate the US military presence in Okinawa under Japan-US Security Treaty and require Japan to mobilize the whole society for cooperation with US military operation.The paradox here is that the existence of the bases are meant to provide security for the country. However, women in Okinawa question the concept of security. -- "Security for whom? when women and children in Okinawa are deprived of their security in their daily lives?". --

They demand demilitarized women's security instead of militarized state's security.NGO Symposium urged women's NGOs and international civil society to lobby against the existence of military bases and defence cooperation agreements that propell super-power military dominance.In the context of review of the Platform for Action, we are convinced that it is necessary to include the longtime foreign military presence in the scope of Women and Armed Conflict(stated in Section E).

By including, we'll be able address more effectively the issue of protecting human rights of women and children in the next five years, while we play a more important role in contributing to creating a world of peace without violence against women for the 21st century. Yayori MATSUI, DirectorAsia-Japan Women's Resource Centerpresented on 28th October 1999 ESCAP High Level Intergovernmental Meeting to Review Regional Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action


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