Updated Jan 26, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden signs order making sexual harassment in the military a crime

President Joe Biden greets US Marines outside the Marine Barracks as he makes a surprise walk down Barracks Row in Washington, DC, on January 25, 2022
President Biden greets U.S. Marines outside the Marine Barracks in Washington, DC, on January 25, 2022. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order making sexual harassment an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Driving the news: The order will also strengthen the military’s response to domestic violence and the wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images, the White House said.

  • There's been growing criticism on Capitol Hill over the military's ineffectiveness at preventing incidences of sexual assault and harassment in the ranks, which has more than doubled in the past decade, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The big picture: Lawmakers last month reached an agreement to reform how military sexual misconduct crimes were prosecuted, according to the New York Times.

  • Under the new agreement, independent military prosecutors would replace commanders in determining whether those accused of sexual assault, rape, murder and domestic violence would be prosecuted, a move that was resisted by lawmakers and Pentagon leaders for decades, per the Times.
  • Biden had last year expressed support for the U.S. military removing sexual harassment and assault cases from the chain of command.
  • "We need concrete actions that fundamentally change the way we handle military sexual assault and that make it clear that these crimes will not be minimized or dismissed," Biden said in July.

Go deeper: Biden backs removing sexual assault cases from military chain of command

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