President Biden signs executive order making sexual harassment a crime under military code

Jan 27, 2022: According to an AFP report, US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order making sexual harassment a crime under the military justice code, in an attempt to relieve a long-term issue with which the Pentagon has struggled.

The move, in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, pays homage to Vanessa Guillen in the Pentagon’s annual budget package. The 20-year-old soldier was killed in 2020 by a fellow soldier after being sexually harassed and told by her family that she did not trust the military command to pursue her complaint.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the ruling “honors the memory of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen, whose death is drawing national attention to the scourge of sexual violence in our military and reforming bilateral military justice.”

Biden tweeted earlier in the day that he was “”signing an Executive Order to make sexual harassment an offense in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” He said the order was aimed at “strengthening the military’s response to the misrepresentation or distribution of images of domestic violence and intimacy.”

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had earlier appointed an independent commission to make recommendations on how to better deal with perpetrators of sexual violence in the armed forces and how to prosecute them more effectively.

The commission concluded that removing decisions about prosecuting sexual assault from the military chain of command was the only solution.

After the executive order comes in place, instead of incurring administrative sanctions as was previously the case, perpetrators may receive prison time.

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