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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 19, 2003
2:05 PM
CONTACT:  The Green Party of the United States
Nancy Allen, 207-326-4576, nallen@acadia.net
Scott McLarty, 202-518-5624, scottmclarty@yahoo.com

Status of Women in 'Rescued' Countries Fails to Improve, Despite Bush Rhetoric;
Greens warn that U.S. military occupation of Iraq will lead to an increase in the trafficking of women for prostitution.
 
WASHINGTON - March 19 - "While President Bush declares that the goal of his war is "liberty and peace" for the Iraqi people, there's a terrible danger that the breakdown of Iraqi society in the wake of the invasion will place women in special peril," said Jo Chamberlain, California Green and member of the steering committee of the Green Party of the United States.

During Monday's speech, the President announced his intention "to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free." Similarly, during the U.S. war on Afghanistan, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and Laura Bush promoted the war as benefiting women: "Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment." (Radio Address by Laura Bush to the Nation," November 17, 2001)

But Greens say that the U.S track record in Afghanistan and previous occupations indicates that Iraqi women will face numerous dangers. A 2003 report on Afghanistan by Human Rights Watch notes that the fall of the Taliban enabled former warlords to return to power, and that many were assisted and financed by the U.S. Since the warlords regained control, many Afghan women and girls have faced the same intimidation and restrictions they faced under the Taliban. Schools have been destroyed and women ordered not to show their faces.

"Women delegates to the ruling Loya Jirga have been threatened against participating in elections, and women in portions of the country have suffered increased sexual violence," said Elizabeth Shanklin of the Green Party of New York State. "The failure of the U.S. to ensure the safety and freedom of Afghan women and girls is likely to be repeated in Iraq."

The presence of 100,000 troops at minimum occupying post-war Iraq will create a typical environment for the trafficking of women to meet soldiers' "rest and relaxation" needs. Past collusion of U.S. military officials in prostitution in countries including the Philippines and the Honduras through licensing of brothels and medical exams has been documented, and red-light districts exist near American bases throughout the world, including the U.S., Okinawa, and Germany.

Local police and government officials are often involved in management and protection of brothels. Many women in the sex industry are coerced through false employment agencies, kidnapped, sold by their families, or indentured to smugglers.

"The concentration of troops creates a demand for prostitution," added Jo Chamberlain. "This demand drives the sex trafficking industry, with tacit approval by U.S. military officials."

The low status of women in countries surrounding Iraq guarantees little support for women who are forced into prostitution. Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran all have severe penalties for prostitution, and trafficking and coercion of women for sex occurs throughout the region. Victims of sexual trafficking are highly susceptible to HIV and AIDS and, in some areas, life expectancy of women and girls in brothels is 25 years or younger. The collusion of police and local government officials in military prostitution guarantees there is no access to assistance.

"The world we want for women, one that guarantees freedom, health, and safety, cannot be gained through war and occupation," said Starlene Rankin, organizer of the Green Party's national Women's Caucus and delegate from the Lavender Caucus. "Those of us who are now protesting Bush's invasion should also turn our attentions, as the war begins, to the welfare of Iraqi civilians and the responsibility of military officials. Even if a humanitarian catastrophe is inevitable, we need to do everything we can to ensure the protection of civilians during and after the war, especially women, children and others who are especially vulnerable."

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