The 7th meeting of the International Network of Women Against Militarism began today. Women from all around the region are on island to attend the weeklong event with the theme of "Resistance, Resilience, and Respect for Human Rights."
"We are very much concerned that women are still seen as a commodity," said Philippine delegate Gorazon Requizo. As the island prepares for the impending military buildup, participants attending this week's conference say we can expect to see more human trafficking. Requizo, a native of the PI, provided insight as she grew up near the Olongapo Province that once hosted one of the largest United States military installations.
"We are advising since there will be a military expansion now here in Guam, we must challenge the women, especially the women and people of Guam to have a very strong resistance movement to this implementation," she said.
Concerns have been raised about the relocation of thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam, as there were concerns in Okinawa about the Marines behavior and sexual misconduct. Victims Advocates Reaching Out executive director Vangie Cabacar said, "It's a big concern for us, our numbers are high from sexual assault cases already, the lack of federal funding is another problem."
VARO is just one of many organizations in Guam involved in the dialogue about how to mitigate the impact, but Speaker Judi Won Pat says a full pronged approach is needed. Asked if she was planning on taking any preemptive measures to protect them, she said, "Yes, absolutely." The speaker warned that talk of a red light district by GVB and individuals at the Chamber of Commerce are of concern to her.
"A possible red light district, moving them out of Tumon and at that time to Harmon, but I think this is a bigger problem. We need to look at the whole picture. We need to look at our community and what it is we need to do to protect women and young girls," she said. Won Pat says she plans to create a blue ribbon committee to counter exploitation and to help create policies to ensure the safety of women and children.
Said Won Pat, "This is going to be a policy for Guam, I know we can't legislate or mandate anything for the military, but when their men come into the community, they would have to abide by the local law." Dr. Vivian Damas, UOG professor and committee member at the conference said that while a law that defines human trafficking has been passed, there is still more to be done. "Regulation of massage parlor, reporting of violence versus women and children both on the base and off the base, if we don't do that and we don't work out the coordinated agreements, we are going to have a huge problem on this island."