Recently, the Mormugao port authorities have been quoted
outlining plans for developing Goa as a centre for rest and
recreation (R&R) for soldiers. Assuming the port authorites
were understood right, and not misquoted, then they had better
be clear about what their plans are, and take the State into confidence
before pushing for anything, the consequences of which
may go well beyond the port and its earnings.
Experiences of Far East Asian countries with R&R bases are
only too well known, for a region like Goa to plunge headlong
into the same without careful consideration. Military R&R bases
have become another name for centres of prostitution.
This has been true in Okinawa Japan, South Korea, and the
Philippines. Not just that, the R&R centres have affected government
policies, and worsened political repression and economic
inequalities. Police corruption, debt bondage and worsening of
gender equations are part of the picture.
"Where there are soldiers, there are women who exist for
them," is a know saying. Contrary to common assumptions in
the West, prostitution is not "part of Asian culture", as has been
pointed out. Yet, demand creates its own supply. Books like 'Let
the Good Times Roll: Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia'
have carefully documented this issue.
With West Asia -- from Afghanistan to Iraq -- getting caught up
badly in military conflict, Goa is strategically located and probably
suits the interests of the globe's only superpower. Tiny Goa,
which has been kicked around like a football only too often in
colonial times, needs to think carefully and closely about what it
wants to get into.
Editorial in Herald, 13 April 2010, Panaji