The U. S. military’s long history with prostitution

Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and deputy commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, updates reporters on current operations during a briefing at the Pentagon, Feb. 8, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

Top U.S. Commander General Curtis M. Scaparrotti has established a ban forbidding all military personnel under his command in South Korea from paying an employee in an “establishment” for his or her time.

The Washington Post reported that a group of women in South Korea are suing their own country, alleging that it trained them to serve as “patriots” or “civilian diplomats” in the 1960s and 1970s. They contend their real job was to work as prostitutes near American military bases.

Working in a profession that has long accommodated the U.S. military, the women stated they were tested regularly for sexually-transmitted diseases.  If infected, they were locked up until they were healthy again, they said.

In an article by The Army Times, many of the women in prostitution rings are illegally smuggled into South Korea from other countries, including the Philippines. The owners of the dubbed “juicy bars” treat the women like property and keep their passports, making them work for their freedom.

The women are forced to sell themselves as companions to U.S. troops, who buy overpriced juice drinks from them. A 2002 Military Times investigation profiled a “juicy girl,” who said she did not make enough money by selling drinks to pay off her debt to her bar owner, so she had to resort to charging U.S. service members for sex.

Scaparrotti stated to his troops that prostitution is not the only thing banned.  Service members are not allowed to pay a fee to play darts or billiards with a local employee or to buy them a drink or souvenir in exchange for their company.

“Service members are often encouraged to buy overpriced ‘juice’ drinks in exchange for the company of these women, or to pay a fee to obtain the company of an employee who is then relieved of their work shift (commonly referred to as “bar-fining” or “buying a day off”),” Scaparrotti said. “The governments of the Republic of Korea, the United States, and the Republic of the Philippines have linked these practices with prostitution and human trafficking.”

Those military personnel who fail to comply with the policy may be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to Scaparrotti’s memo.  He wrote that he expects installation commanders to place off-limits any establishments that support prostitution and human trafficking.

“I also expect service members to respect the dignity of others at all times,” Scaparrotti wrote. “Paying for companionship directly supports human trafficking and is a precursor to prostitution. This practice encourages the objectification of women, reinforces sexist attitudes, and is demeaning to all human beings.”

The military has a lengthy connection with prostitution and over the past few years has been connected to it in many other negative instances.

According to the Washington Post, last year several Navy officers and employees were charged with accepting prostitutes as part of a major bribery scandal. The women were provided by the Malaysian tycoon, “Fat” Leonard Francis, in exchange for information that he allegedly used to defraud the U.S. government of millions of dollars.  The case had connections to Malaysia, Singapore Japan and Indonesia, among other locations.

USA Today reported on a more recent Army investigation against Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen, a sexual abuse educator at Fort Hood in Texas.  According to military officials, he was running a small-time prostitution ring and sexually assaulted another female soldier.

Investigators believe that he persuaded a female private first class to become a prostitute who sold sex to other service members.  McQueen approached another female soldier in attempt to recruit her as well.  He sexually assaulted her when she refused.

More appalling is McQueen was working as a sexual harassment/assault response and prevention coordinator during the time of these incidents.  His primary duties included assisting commander with their response and prevention programs in sexual assault cases.

In a recent article, Service Women’s Action Network Executive Director, Anu Bhagwati, noted, “It’s (the military) also a culture that has been conducive to sexism and the degradation of women. At bases overseas, there’s commercial exploitation of women thriving around them, women being trafficked. You can’t expect to treat women as one of your own when, in same breath, you as a young soldier are being encouraged to exploit women on the outside of that base.”


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