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U.S. Military Is Still A Hostile Environment For Women

Since 2013, together with our partner the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), we have been working to combat sexual assault in the U.S. Military and see that survivors are supported when they seek justice.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of an article featured on Thomson Reuters Foundation News

Women are already an integral part of the U.S. military and have served their country since the American Revolution. They make up more than 14% of the U.S. Armed Services and more than 280,000 have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent developments mean that even more women are likely to take part in the future.

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, ending sexual assault is clearly not “mission-critical” within the U.S. Military.

However, the military is often a dangerous place to be a woman. Despite claims of “zero tolerance”, sexual assault, harassment and discrimination are widespread and exacerbated by policies and practices that “victim-blame” and often fail to penalize perpetrators.

Equality Now supports the Military Justice Improvement Act

Last month, an Associated Press investigation confirmed this when it found that the U.S. military used “inaccurate or vague information” to convince Congress not to pass a law which would give more power to civilian courts to handle military cases – and that it used misleading or incomplete information in about 93 sexual assault cases.

The bill in question, supported by Equality Now and our partner, SWAN, was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in 2013. It has died twice on the Senate floor. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, have recently taken measures to reform their military justice systems, so that commanders do not wield undue influence over sexual assault cases. It is vital that the U.S. follows suit and protects all of those who bravely serve our country.