Sexual harassment has been made a criminal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice after US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday.
Adding he had made the move in honor of 20-year-old US Army soldier Vanessa Guillén, Biden noted the executive order is strengthening how the US military justice system addresses several forms of gender-based violence.
The order also strengthens the US military’s response to domestic violence and the wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images.
Establishing sexual harassment as an offense under the code was called for by the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén, who was murdered on April 22, 2020, had complained before her death about being sexually harassed by an unnamed sergeant at Fort Hood with the investigation establishing last year the US Army did not take adequate measures in response to her sexual harassment complaint.
The investigation, which also ruled that her murder was unrelated and not carried out by the person who harassed her, concluded Guillen was sexually harassed and mistreated by a supervisor who created an intimidating, hostile environment.
I also said the unit leadership as well as the supervisor’s counterproductive leadership, who were informed of the harassment, failed to take appropriate action.
A former lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin celebrated the executive order, which was also praised by Guillén’s sister, Mayra Guillén, who noted that her little sister is being honored in the very best way possible.
Austin said in his post on Twitter that all men and women in uniform should be able to serve their country free from fear of violence or harassment.