MJIA attempts to erase the systemic obstacles that victims of sexual assault in the military face due to the "clear bias and inherent conflicts of interest posed by the military chain of command's current sole decision-making power over whether cases move forward to a trial." According to the 2012 SAPRO report released by the Defense Department, there were 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact and assault that year, but only 3,553 were reported. Twenty-five percent of women and 27 percent of men who experienced unwanted sexual contact reported that the offender was someone in their military chain of command.
Fifty percent of women said they did not report unwanted sexual contact because they thought nothing would be done. "Too often, cases of sexual assault go unreported out of fear of retribution or that nothing will be done - this bill would increase confidence in the military judicial system," said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
Another bill recently introduced aims to amend Article 32 proceedings - a pre-trial investigation before a case can even be referred to a general court-martial. Article 32 proceedings can be re-victimizing for victims of sexual assault, who may be forced to answer accusatory questions throughout, like the rape victim at the Naval Academy who had to undergo 30 hours of questioning. The amendment aims to limit the scope of the proceedings, bar unwarranted questioning, prevent crime victims from being forced to testify, and require the proceedings to be recorded and made available to all involved parties. These changes will bring the proceedings more in line with the conduct of preliminary hearings under rule 5.1 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
"There is simply no reason that victims of military sexual assault should have to endure vicious and invasive questioning during a marathon, pre-trial interrogation that has no parallel in the civilian world," said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
Media Resources: Senator Barbara Boxer's Press Releases 11/5/13, 11/6/13; The New York Times 11/7/13; RH Reality Check 11/7/13; Feminist Newswire 9/3/13
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .