Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence:
A Feminist Challenge to Militarism 

 

By: Kozue Akibayashi

Ed.D. Dissertation, Columbia University Teachers College, 2002 

Outline of Main Themes and Concepts, by Jerrica Escoto

 

1.  Introduction

 

Purpose of dissertation:

  • Analysis of the meaning of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence (OWAAMV) and their actions for peace
  • OWAAMV making connections between militarism and their daily lives in Okinawa

American Peace Caravan organized by OWAAMV—action in response to the rape of 12-year-old girl in September 1995 

  • Anger at public officials, who ignored the issues arising from the effects of U.S. militarism on the lives of women

Author’s gender perspective helped to analyze the social construction of gender and militarism that military institutions have taken for granted

Prior to OWAAMV, gender issues were never part of the public protest about U.S. military occupation in Okinawa 

Oppressions rising from sexism, colonialism, and militarism

Feminists of OWAAMV believe in creating a community

  • Author identifies some of the difficulties of developing a peace community in Japan because of Japanese historical participation in wars

OWAAMV identified military violence as “structural violence”

  • Systematic training that institutionalizes military men to believe in violence and killing
  • Violence against women must be understood through a military lens

Study focuses specifically on women of OWAAMV and their lives

 

Geography

 

Highlights geography of Okinawa and how U.S. has conquered land, air, and sea

 

History of Okinawa

 

History of anger and frustration of heightened when 1995 rape occurred

  • Refusal of U.S. authorities to surrender perpetrators to Japanese authorities further infuriated OWAAMV

Protests for removal of bases

Masahide Ota, Governor of Okinawa in 1995, refused to sign leases for land, which infuriated Japanese government

Okinawans believed that the U.S. would downsize military occupation

Reconstruction included plan for the return of Futenma Air Station

 

The Origins of OWAAMV

 

OWAAMV established in November 1995, two months after rape incident

  • September 4, 1995, two marines and navy seaman rented a car to search for a victim to rape.  The three men found a victim, raped her in their car, and abandoned her in a parking lot.  The family and victim reported the crime to the police.  U.S. authorities identified suspects but refused to hand them over to local authorities until September 29

From August 31-September 10

  • The NGO Forum was held in Huairou.  One workshop—“Structural Military Violence Against Women in Okinawa”—called for a world of non-violence and a demand for human dignity
  • Workshop exemplified “structural violence” and illustrated its effects on Okinawan women, including sexual violence, “comfort bases,” and public prostitution zones, STDs, exploitation of women, and more (refer to pages 33-34 for complete list)

Most sexually violence crimes are dismissed as “personal relationships” between U.S. military personnel and Japanese women.  Some cases were not reported because victims were afraid of the social stigma

Establishment of OWAAMV was an act of “breaking the silence” after the 1995 rape

Origin of OWAAMV goes back to annual Naha City Unai Festival (meaning “sisterhood” in the indigenous language)

First Unai Festival included various events that were entirely planned and carried out by women, and a network emerged from the Unai Festival in 1985

 

Analytic Concepts

 

Identifying “security,” militarism, masculinity, and gender violence as important analytic concepts

Concept of militarism is analyzed—a “step by step process” by which an individual is controlled and influenced

Linkages between militarism and “structural violence”

 

Military Violence Against Women

 

Members of OWAAMV made demands for more attention to military violence against women

Past cases of military violence against women were not recognized because women were usually from lower classes (women enslaved by Japanese Army), and were therefore disregarded

Provides examples of military violence against women since WWII and discusses military violence against women in other Asian countries, i.e. Korea, Philippines, etc.

There was significant publication internationally of the problem of military violence against women

Military sexual slavery also scrutinized

Introduction of ICC (International Criminal Court), in which defendants can be tried in court and punished according to international law

Establishment of ICC was parallel to the developing goals of OWAAMV

 

Chapter 2:  Research Methodology

 

Framework of the Study: feminist peace research

Feminist critiques of the field of international relations

Posits the interconnections between militarism and patriarchy

 

The Concept of Peace

 

The meaning of “peace”

  • Absence of war and structural violence
  • Negative peace: war
  • Positive peace: when structural violence is eliminated

 “Enjoyment of universal human rights”

 

Feminist Peace Research

 

Military violence only provides security and protects those who are already in power.

  • Oppressive system of “security”

Feminists who deal with international relations argue that military institutions embody the feminine/masculine division

Patriarchal ideal plays a large role, along with gender and cultural constructions, and has a major impact on international behavior 

Violence highlighted in training/boot camp

  • Testimonies from Vietnam veterans—connections between military training and violence against women
  • Interrelationships between militarism and sexism

In order to work for peace, you must pay attention to the social structures and implications of patriarchy

Data Collection

 

Four major sources

  • Interviews of OWAAMV members
  • Observation of the groups’ meetings and actions
  • Documents about or created by OWAAMV members
  • Author’s journal of the research process kept during stay in Okinawa in 1999

Fieldwork design is “organic feminist inquiry”—5 basic elements identified by Ligaya Lindio-McGovern:

  • Being sensitive to the political context and culture of the women involved in the study
  • Conducting research in natural settings
  • Being flexible by letting questions emerge
  • Seeking to understand the power structures in which women’s lives are enmeshed
  • Being reflective

Author is in position of “accepted outsider” of OWAAMV because of Japanese identity

 

Interviews

 

Members interviewed from September-December 1999 in Okinawa

  • Questionnaire

 

Documents

 

Issued by OWAAMV—given or found in archives of Space Yui

Newspaper articles

Fieldwork observations

  • Daily journal—to record daily activities of OWAAMV and remain consistent

Biographical descriptions of respondents, including ages and occupations (all members of OWAAMV)

 

Observation Records

 

Members who were observed, including those who declined to be interviewed

List of members of observed, including ages and occupations

 

Data Analysis

 

Interviews conducted in Japanese then translated

Categories:  the evolving process of OWAAMV, respondents interpretations of taking action, and their learning experiences in the OWAAMV movement

Examples of taking action—characteristic of the movement

  • Unai Action 
  • Silent Walk at the Cornerstone of Peace 2000

Author wants to theorize about the daily lives of OWAAMV

Significance of leadership of Suzuyo Takazato

 

Chapter 3:  Findings:  OWAAMV’s Roots, Lessons, and Solidarity Efforts

 

These reflect significant characteristics of a feminist peace education process and feminist peace research

 

Membership

 

OWAAMV more of a movement rather than an organization

Mission:  no toleration of military that constitute structural violence

  • The demand of closure and withdrawal of U.S. military bases
  • Working for peace

Highlights actions in Okinaw

 

The Evolution of OWAAMV

 

First action:  press conference on September 11, 1995, convened by NGO Committee when expressing deep anger about the rape

Establishment of office announced November 8, 1995

November 9-20: “12-day Sit-in Demonstration” at Peace Square in Naha

November 17, 1995—511, gathered 963 signatures on a petition during a sit-in; delivered these to the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo

Goals for first 6 months:  full list on page 91

Events and factors that inspired women to join the movement

  • Previously existing women’s networks
  • Takazato’s past election campaigns (1989, 1993, and 1997)
  • The Huairou NGO Forum preparation
  • The 1995 rape

 

Previously Existing Women’s Networks and Experiences

 

Some members were already a part of movements for women’s rights and awareness

 

Takazato’s Election Campaigns in 1989, 1993, and 1997

 

Campaign raised awareness of women’s human rights, political participation of women, and military violence.

Preparation for the Huairou NGO Forum

 

The 1995 Rape

 

  • Respondent responses to questions

 

Taking Action

 

Unai Action: “No to Distortion of the History and the Relocation of the U.S. Base,” October 5, 1999

  • “Umbrella Action”
  • Planned to express women’s opposition
  • Relocation plan of Futenma Air Station to Heneko
  • New Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum to open in March 2000

Silent Walk to the Cornerstone of Peace, June 2000

  • Event during the International Women’s Summit 2000 organized by OWAAMV and the East Asia—U.S. Women’s Network Against Militarism
  • Purpose of Silent Walk: to commemorate the victims of the Battle of Okinawa whose names were not inscribed on the Cornerstone, particularly the “comfort women”

 

Meaning of Taking Action

 

Political actions are an important part of OWAAMV

 

Modes of Participation: “Night Group” and “Day Group”

 

Difference between “Night” vs. “Day” Groups

 

 

“Horizontal Connection”: Individuals are Important

 

Individualism valued in OWAAMV

 

 

The OWAAMV Learning Process as Feminist Peace Education

 

A Feminist Perspective on Peace and Security characterized by:

  • Cooperative learning
  • Informal exchanges
  • Reflections on personal experiences

 

Learning is an important component of being a part of the movement

Actions and protests by OWAAMV

  • Relocation of Futenma Air Station
  • Removal of U.S. bases, not only in Okinawa but also around the world
  • Anti-base movement

 

A Learning Community for Peace

 

Learning process takes place as a community within OWAAMV

Community building

 

Learning to Understand Sexism and Militarism

 

A major goal is to understand sexism and militarism

The process of understanding militarism and “structural violence” made possible by constant research and studying by OWAAMV members

 

Space Yui:  A Community for Learning and Activism

 

Space Yui is space for creating community—space for women to gather and talk

Also functions as a library

Drop-in place for OWAAMV members

Where business and informal meetings were held

Where appointments with Takazato were held

 

Leadership

 

Highlighted importance of leadership by Suzuyo Takazato

 

  • Intellectual leadership
  • History of Takazato

 

International Solidarity

 

Networking of high importance in order to achieve awareness

Coalition building

Contributions

Carolyn Francis

  • Propelled internationalism
  • Trained interns

Margo Okazawa-Rey and Gwyn Kirk

  • Feminist peace activists/researchers based in San Francisco
  • First meeting held by Martha Marsuoka

 

Chapter 4:  Conclusions and Recommendations

 

Peace research

Focus on women’s contributions to the movement

 

Patriarchy as the Foundation of Structural Violence

 

Challenges patriarchy within peace movements

Existing peace movements dominated by men do not highlight violence against women and children

 

The Political Participation of Women for Peace

 

Citizens challenging present security systems

Broader understanding of political participation of women for peace that OWAAMV members promote in attempts to protect the human rights of women and children

One of major goals: achieve peace without wars

OWAAMV movement actively connecting to women around the world

 

Lessons for Empowerment

 

Women in public affairs and in political participation

Peace education attempts to nourish in all the importance of learning for empowerment

Empowerment possible through the passion of OWAAMV to identify and learn about oppressions

 

Recommendations

 

“I suggest that the movement should begin to address alternatives for security and action for transforming interlocking oppressions” (page 155)

 

Envisioning an Alternative Security System

 

Importance of the creation of more concrete proposals

 

Unlocking Interlocking Oppressions

 

The experiences of Okinawan women cannot be understood without fully understanding interlocking oppressions of

  • Colonialism
  • Patriarchy
  • Domesticity

 

Chapter:  Epilogue

 

OWAAMV continues to fight for the human rights of women and children

Considering the effects of September 11, 2001

 

Appendices

 

Appendix A:  Okinawa Women’s American Peace Caravan (February 3-17, 1996)

 

Appendix B:  Agreement Under Article VI of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between Japan and the United States of America, Regarding Facilities and Areas and the Status of United States Armed Forces in Japan

 

Appendix C:  Postwar U.S. Military Crimes Against Women in Okinawa

 

Appendix D:  Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  General Assembly Resolution 48/104 of December 20, 1993

 

Appendix E:  Testimony from Okinawa Presented at the Public Hearing on Crimes Against Women in Recent Wars and Conflicts

 

Appendix F:  Consent Form for Survey

 

Appendix G:  Basic Questionnaire

 

Appendix H:  An Appeal to the Mass Media to Exercise Restraint in Regard to Violation of Privacy

 

Appendix I:  Chronology of Selected OWAAMV Actions (1995-2000)

 

Appendix J:  Women and Children, Militarism, and Human Rights:  International Women’s Working Conference.  Naha City, May 1-4, 1997

 

Appendix K:  Okinawa Women’s Second America Peace Caravan:  Los Angeles-San Diego-Washington, D.C., October 3-15, 1998

 

Appendix L:  Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence

 

Appendix M:  Statement to Halt Sexual Violence Against Women—Rape Emergency Intervention Center Okinawa (REICO)

 

Appendix N:  An Appeal against the Retaliatory Use of U.S. Military Power towards a Global Society of Security Based Not on Military Power