President Biden on Wednesday is expected to sign an executive order that would make sexual harassment an offense under the military’s justice system and increase penalties for troops sharing explicit photographs of other service members without their permission.
White House officials have not disclosed what the penalties could be for sexual harassment once it becomes part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Military Times reported.
Congress recently approved sweeping changes to the legal process of how sexual misconduct crimes are prosecuted in the military, following years of complaints that commanders haven’t adequately addressed the issue. But some say the reforms did not go far enough to protect victims and remove cases from the traditional chain of command.
The changes were enacted following the August 2020 killing of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, who was slain by another soldier. She had also complained of being sexually harassed by an unidentified sergeant in her unit.
Rather than being handled through the military chain of command, such cases will now fall under a team of independent military prosecutors under the new changes to the system.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has voiced his support for taking sexual harassment and related crimes away from the chain of command and allowing them to be addressed by independent military lawyers.
Military officials, however, have balked at calls from advocates such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, to remove nearly all felony crimes from their oversight, and the provision was dropped from the major defense authorization law signed by Mr. Biden late last year.