Sex Trafficking High Around U.S. Military Bases Abroad

Serving in the United States military is about honor, dignity, and strength. So it makes sense that the U.S. military would make visiting brothels and having sex with women and kids forced into a prostitution a big no-no for American soldiers, right? On paper, establishments that sell sex are off-limits for men (and women) in uniform. But in practice, sex trafficking flourishes near U.S. military bases. Should U.S. soldiers be abusing people in another country while protecting people in this one?

Of all the countries where an American military presence attracts prostitution, both voluntary and forced, South Korea may feel the effects most acutely. U.S. troops have been stationed in South Korea since 1945, and the brothels around the U.S. military bases have been there just as long. In 2004, the Pentagon drafted a policy to reduce the sex trafficking growing wherever American soldiers, sailors, and airmen were stationed, with specific attention to South Korea. Under that policy, military personnel caught visiting a brothel or “massage parlour” could be subject to court martial. However, there is very little information available about how often that sanction is enforced.

There is evidence, however, that the policy has not worked in reducing demand for prostitution, evidenced by the continuing high levels of prostitution and human trafficking near U.S. military bases. The U.S. military has finally begun to make some clubs and bars known to traffic women or sell children off-limits to service members, but one report indicates that only 4 out of 25 such places in the area have been listed as off-limits. The South Korean government, too, has been cracking down on sex trafficking in the past few years. However, the areas surrounding the U.S. military base have been exempted from the crackdown by the Korean government. So brothels around U.S. military bases are falling through the cracks of both U.S. government and Korean government policy.

If government policy is in place and sex trafficking is still going on, then what can be done to prevent it? The Pentagon took a good first step in putting a policy in place to prevent American military uniforms from showing up at brothels where women and children are forced into prostitution. However, they need to do more. Specifically, they need to enforce that policy, including against officers, whose indiscretions are sometimes ignored. They also need to work to change the culture in the military that views women as sexual objects. Addressing the latter will not only make a difference in the amount of sex trafficking around bases, but also the sexual harassment, rape, and assault of women serving in the military.

Men Can Stop Rape has a great campaign called “Our Strength is Not for Hurting,” which focuses on equating masculinity and strength with respect for women. They have a similar campaign aimed specifically at military personnel. This would be a great starting point for the U.S. military to truly tackle the demand for sex trafficking which exists around their bases.

Photo credit: Aaron Escobar


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Maybe this is too simplistic, but:

    eliminate base == eliminate problem

  2. I recently worked for a local college for their dorm system. We had the Air Force staying in one dorm while they are getting their base airstrip re-treaded. Two of the military personnel that I worked with told me that in Kazahkstan or Kyrgystan (can’t remember which now) they have the most “beautiful women” and prostitution is common. They told me US military guys would go and they would bring 10 women out to pick from. If they didn’t like any, they would bring another 10 out.

    I said to them “I wonder if any of these girls are there from being trafficked”. They both said together “All of them are”. So, the U.S. Military personnel are going to these places even when they know that these girls do not want to be there on their own free will. Does this not constitute rape?

    Rebecca Murray has an article out called “Female Trafficking Soars in Iraq” (August 27, 2011).

    The girls there told Rebecca that they are taken to the U.S. military base to service at times up to 50 guys per girl. It is all about trafficking and also it is about survival after the U.S. has completely distroyed this nation. The military personnel are not representing the American people. They are representing and protecting the elites, and themselves.

    None of this makes the world like Americans any better. Of course, it is not only American men doing this. It seems to be spreading.

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