While the U.S. works to ensure rights for a U.S. Airman accused of rape, Japanese women’s groups like Okinawan Women Against Military Violence wonder if the young assault victim will be afforded the same justice.
The serviceman accused of sexually assaulting a young Japanese woman will be prosecuted under Japanese law. The US agreed to his release only after Japanese officials promised Woodland a fair trial complete with a translator and adequate legal defense.
Since the end of WWII, the US military has maintained a strong presence in Japan. In response to an overwhelming US occupancy, the US and Japan agreed to a Security of Forces Agreement in 1960. Among its other functions, SOFAs regulate what legal actions can be taken against U.S. military officers who commit crime abroad.
Opponents of SOFAs believe the agreements have been used to protect criminal acts rather than prosecute them. Japan has a history of sexual assaults going unpunished. Many women’s groups believe that the US uses the SOFAs to safeguard American violence toward women abroad.
Okinawan police records from 1972 to 1997 revealed 200 rapes by US military personnel, but a number of Japanese women’s organizations believe to be a modest estimate because of the social stigma of rape in Japan.
Often the offender can request for a discharge rather than mar his reputation upon conviction. American Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland was released into Japanese police custody on July 6.