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




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




Members interviewed from September-December 1999 in Okinawa

  • Questionnaire




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




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




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


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




“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




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