Last Friday, I attended a public forum sponsored by GABRIELA, the leading women's political organization here in the Philippines. The forum was featuring the mother of a young woman who was raped in Okinawa, Japan in this past February by a US army serviceman. This rape occurred days after another US army serviceman had raped a 14 year old girl from Okinawa. The latter assault was reduced to "sexual abuse" and he was sentenced to 4 years in prison.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The case of the Filipina, though, has been dropped by Japan prosecutors, citing that the accusation was "not accepted" by the accused, and in Japanese law, a rape charge cannot stand alone.
The mother of this rape survivor retold a heart-wrenching tale of her daughter who was working overseas and a part of the Philippine human export of female labor, working as an entertainer in Japan to help pay for a medical expense for her twin sister. She had earned just enough to cover the expense when she was raped. Gabriela is putting pressure on all three governments - Philippines, Japan, and the US - to bring justice for this woman and for end of US military occupation in Asia. So far, there have been no updates as this prosecutors turned their backs on this case in May. More details of the case here.
As I learn more about the conditions for women workers in this country, it is impossible to not consider the 3000 workers who leave this country EVERYDAY to find work overseas and help support their families. Much of these jobs are catering to women: domestic workers, caretakers, dancers, and entertainers. These women are subject to every kind of abuse and assault possible, many of them returning to the Philippines in coffins.
The economic crisis of this country is pushing and the government encouraging its citizens to go overseas and send remittances home. Last year the remittances were in the 20 billions, with the government profiting off of their "heroes," as they have labeled them. Many of these women who work overseas are separated from their families, work alone, and are subject to modern day slavery conditions, particularly in the Middle East, Singapore, Japan, and the US.
If they return home, most of them do not profit financially and are still in the same situation as they left. The women of this country are facing dire situations of choice: poverty and unemployment or working overseas in isolation, abuse, rape, or even death as possibilities.
The face of the mother whose daughter was raped in Okinawa is the pained face of family for me. It was absolutely heart-wrenching to sit through.