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New NDAA Advances Women’s Rights In The Military

A sexual assault awareness poster.

A sexual assault awareness poster. (Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery)

The National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 is now law. While the law has some iffy provisions regarding lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the military, it is a big step forward for women in the military especially with regards to prevention and response to sexual assault and harassment in the military.

Former Marine Captain Anu Bhagwati, the Executive Director of Service Women’s Action Network, stated “We are grateful to Congress and the President for taking adopting these measures, and are ready to roll up our sleeves to push for greater change this year. Chief among our policy goals going forward is moving sexual assault case disposition authority into the hands of military prosecutors and opening civil courts to service members who are victims of sexual violence. We will also continue to apply pressure on VA to reform the disability claims process for victims of Military Sexual Trauma.”

According to SWAN, the new law prohibits the military from recruiting anyone convicted of a sexual offense; makes it mandatory that convicted sex offenders be separated from the military; mandate insurance coverage for abortions in the case of rape or incest for service women or military family members; retain restricted report documentation for fifty years if the victim asks it; the creation of a Special Victims Unit to carry out investigations and prosecutions and help with victim support; victims will be allowed to return to active duty after separation to help prosecute sex offenders; the creation of an independent review panel comprised of civilian and military members that will closely examine the way that the DOD investigates, prosecutes, and adjudicates sexual assaults.

The law also requires that there be sexual assault prevention training in pre-command and command courses for officers; improved data collection and reporting by the military on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases; annual command climate assessment surveys to track individual attitudes toward sexual assault and sexual harassment; a review of unrestricted sexual assault reports and the nature of any subsequent separations of victims who made those reports; notification to service members of the options available for the correction of military records due to any retaliatory personnel action after making a report of sexual assault or sexual harassment; requirement for DOD to establish a comprehensive policy for sexual harassment prevention and response; language that will allow better oversight and tracking of DOD’s implementation of sexual assault provisions from prior Defense Authorizations in order to ensure they are being enforced properly.

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