The Sacrifice of a Schoolgirl
The 1995 Rape Case,Discourses of Power, and Women's Lives in Okinawa
In September 1995 relations between the United States,
Japan, and Okinawa were transformed when three U.S.
servicemen brutally gang-raped a twelve-year-old schoolgirl.
Okinawan feminists called public attention to the rape,
but it wasn't long before the media and political leaders
shifted their focus to concerns about Okinawa's colonial
history and its postwar occupation by the United States.
A crisis of sovereignty replaced the crisis for women
and a particular girl, which gradually faded from view,
as did the agenda of feminist activists. Through an
examination of Okinawa's contentious identity politics,
the author traces the political trajectories of Okinawa's
component groups and asks why this particular crime,
in a long list of crimes against Okinawans by U.S. personnel
since 1945, resonates so strongly both in Okinawa and
in mainland Japan. The author argues that the rape has
been enlisted for its powerful symbolic capacity: Okinawa
as sacrificed schoolgirl/daughter. As such it is emblematic
of past, prior narratives of Okinawan victimhood, most
notably the Himeyuri students in the Battle of Okinawa.
Feminists' cooperation in a patriarchal language that
posits Okinawa as daughter within a national Japanese
family is problematic but necessary as a strategy in
the fight for women's human rights.
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