Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rape in Okinawa

I was in Okinawa last week, during which time a US Navy sailor was arrested and charged with the raping of a Japanese woman in a hotel in Naha, the capital city of the island. As violence against women has been one of the most significant rallying cries for opposition to the US bases in the island, I expected this issue to dominate most of my discussions as I met with dozens of demilitarization and decolonization activists. My previous trip to Okinawa (gi ma'pos na sakkan) coincided with the anniversary of the most famous rape case in recent Okinawan history, where in 1995 a 12 year old girl was brutalized three US servicemen. That incident spurned on an island-wide protest movement, where close to 100,000 gathered on one occasion. But this most recent case didn't penetrate the conversations I was in, as much as I had anticipated. It was broached, it was invoked, but few expressed rich outrage at it. Few made the broader connections, that I often witnessed in the past. I wondered how much of this was connected to what one of the presenters at the conference I attended mentioned, namely the way women's issues are lost in most groups pushing for demilitarization and decolonization on the island. That the rapes and the sexual violence against women can be eagerly used to mobilize people around feelings of victimization through the use of women's bodies as mediums, but it is easy to lose focus on this issue once other interests come into play.
This is always an issue with decolonization movements, and something that I must be more mindful of in my own discussions and writings. It is easy to assume a genderless subject, when talking about the developing of a national consciousness and anti-colonial movements, but in practice this is hardly the case. Movements such as this, and the actors who carry it out, male and female alike often times embody male positions, an unmarked category that leaves many frameworks of institutional violence completely untouched.


Sailor Charged with Raping Woman in Okinawan Hotel
  By Matthew M. Burke and Chiyomi Sumida
Stars and Stripes
Published: March 14, 2016

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A U.S. Navy sailor assigned to Camp Schwab has been charged with raping a Japanese woman in an Okinawa hotel, a case that could enflame tensions on the tiny island prefecture, if history is any indication.

Japanese police say Seaman Apprentice Justin Castellanos, 24, found the female tourist, from the mainland city of Fukuoka, intoxicated and asleep in the hotel’s hallway, took her into his room and raped her between 1 and 4 a.m. Sunday.

A friend of the woman, who is in her 40s, reported the alleged incident, and police took in Castellanos for questioning. He was placed under arrest at the police station, and the case was referred to prosecutors Monday afternoon. Police say Castellanos denies the allegations.
Okinawa has been the site of several high-profile sexual assaults over the years, including a case involving two Navy reservists in late 2012 that led to a curfew for all U.S. servicemembers in Japan. The curfew, slightly relaxed in 2014, remains in effect.

“The incident is extremely deplorable,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference Monday. “Japan filed a strong protest with the U.S. Embassy. At the same time, we called for enforcement of strict discipline and preventive measures.”

Capt. Jeff Davis, spokesman for the Pentagon, said Monday that Castellanos is in Naha police custody.

"U.S. Forces Japan, the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are cooperating fully with the Naha city police department and their investigation," he said.
Davis was unaware whether the incident has sparked changes to off-base privileges.
"That would be the purview of the commanders on the ground," he said.

Suga deflected questions at the news conference on whether the incident would affect the planned relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which has been the target of small but vocal protests. But Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who has been openly critical of the relocation plan, condemned the incident Monday.

“It was a serious crime that violated women’s human rights, which is never to be tolerated,” Onaga was quoted as saying by a spokesman. “I am indignant.”

Onaga said the incident, if true, could hurt the island prefecture’s important tourism industry.
A protest was filed Monday with the Okinawa Liaison Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Okinawa Defense Bureau, his spokesman said. A protest will also be lodged with U.S. military officials.

Some Okinawans have bristled at hosting more than half of the U.S. troops stationed in Japan even though the island accounts for less than 1 percent of its total land mass.

Crimes committed by American servicemembers have been on the decline in recent years, but sexual assaults continue to draw the ire of local residents.

In the most high-profile case, three U.S. servicemembers abducted and raped a 12-year-old schoolgirl in 1995. That led to mass protests and plans to reduce the U.S. military footprint on the island and relocate Futenma from a densely populated area.

Stars and Stripes reporter Tara Copp contributed to this story.


U.S. serviceman accused of rape in Okinawa
by Euan McKirdy

(CNN)A U.S. serviceman has been arrested in the southern Japanese prefecture of Okinawa on suspicion of raping a Japanese tourist, local police have confirmed to CNN. The alleged attack took place in the serviceman's hotel room in Naha, the prefectural capital.

The man, identified by Okinawan police as 24-year old Navy sailor Justin Castellanos, stationed at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, allegedly took the victim, a 40-year-old woman from the Japanese prefecture of Kyushu, to his room after finding her asleep, drunk, in the hotel's lobby before raping her.

Reports say that he has denied the accusation. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo declined to comment about the incident.

"It is a crime which seriously violates human rights of women and should never be tolerated," Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga told reporters at a press conference. 

"We are going to lodge a strong complaint ​against ​U.S. forces in Japan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Defense.

"It is reported the victim is a tourist. Tourism is Okinawa's main industry and we have been making efforts to ensure the safety of tourists."

A U.S. State Department said in a briefing that the U.S. government takes "the reports very, very seriously," and said that the U.S. Navy was also investigating the incident. 

"If there is a need to hold someone accountable, they will do that... (the Japanese government and U.S. Navy) will do that in open and transparent way," U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

"We take our relationship with the people of Okinawa as with everybody in Japan very, very seriously, It's a strong alliance, it's a deep and abiding friendship and we have great respect for the Japanese people.. If (the incident did occur), it's obviously inconsistent with our values and principles and what we expect of our people overseas."

Previous crimes

U.S. troops stationed in the prefecture have previously been convicted of assault and other crimes. In 1995, three U.S. servicemen, Rodrico Harp, Kendrick Ledet and Marcus Gill, who were at the time stationed in Okinawa, were convicted of the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl, and in 2013, two American sailors were convicted by a Japanese court of the 2012 rape of a Japanese woman that they were found to have followed from a bar. 

In the past, crimes committed by U.S. troops have sparked huge protests in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan. The bulk of U.S. forces in Japan are stationed in Okinawa and locals complain that they are shouldering an unfair burden. 

This latest incident comes as Tokyo and the U.S. military have been attempting to relocate U.S. forces within Okinawa, mostly from the Futenma air base, which is located in an urban area, to a replacement base in the Henoko coastal area of Okinawa. 

The Okinawa government recently won a court case with Tokyo over the creation of an alternate base at Henoko, although construction of a new facility has been ordered to continue at the site. The case may affect the presence of U.S. troops in the southern prefecture, with a transfer of U.S. Marines from the southern prefecture to the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, part of a wider realignment of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region. 


US sailor held for alleged rape at Naha hotel
March 14, 2016

The government has lodged a protest with the United States over the alleged rape of a Japanese tourist by a U.S. sailor in Okinawa on Sunday.

Justin Castellanos, 24, of the U.S. Navy’s Camp Schwab in the prefecture, is suspected of raping a woman in her 40s at a hotel in Naha where they were both staying.

“It was extremely regrettable that this case happened,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. The government demanded that the United States “tighten discipline and prevent a recurrence of such incidents,” he said.

Suga quoted U.S. officials as saying they are taking the case seriously. He added, it would be “regrettable” if a U.S. serviceman is found to be guilty.

The government’s top spokesman said the Foreign and Defense ministries filed a protest Sunday afternoon with the U.S. Embassy and with U.S. forces stationed in Japan.

Speaking to reporters Monday in the Okinawa prefectural capital of Naha, Gov. Takeshi Onaga condemned the incident.

“It was a serious crime in violation of women’s human rights and can never be tolerated,” Onaga said. “I feel strong resentment.”

Citing the fact that the woman is a tourist from Fukuoka Prefecture, Onaga said the incident “might pose a significant impact on tourism, a major industry for the prefecture.”

On Sunday, local police arrested Castellanos on suspicion of taking the woman to his room at the hotel and raping her there. He denies it.

Police said the suspect took the woman to his room after finding her sleeping in the corridor.
The sailor and the woman were both staying at the hotel but were unacquainted, they said.

Crimes by U.S. military personnel have caused concern and protests in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan.

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