Diversity & the Law

Military wants stricter sexual and racial harassment sentences

Draft of armed forces' new penal code severely punishes several types of discrimination, including homophobia and Islamophobia

The armed forces are cracking on down sexual harassment and attempting to eradicate outbreaks of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism and homophobia.

At least, that’s what the newest raft of the military’s new penal code suggests. The new code introduces unprecedentedly severe penalties for personnel who engage in sexual harassment or homophobic practices. According to the draft seen by EL PAÍS, sentences between six months and four years, plus the possible expulsion from service, will be applied to those found guilty of harassment or committing racist or xenophobic acts.

Military courts have already handed down sentences against officers who have been accused by their subordinates of sexual harassment. But the convictions have been applied to a section of the code that addresses "abuse of authority."

The proposed new code will specifically outline what constitutes discriminatory crimes against Muslims, gays and women.

The  new code will outline what constitutes discriminatory crimes against Muslims, gays and women

It punishes any "serious discrimination on grounds of birth, racial or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, belief, opinion, disability or any other condition or personal or social circumstance."

The inclusive list reflects the heterogeneity of the armed forces, which -- like the rest of Spanish society -- includes women, foreigners, Muslims and homosexuals.

Harassment or discrimination as defined by the code is not limited to interactions between superiors and subordinates, but also between the personnel of the same rank or title. Thus, the new penal code punishes sexual harassment even when there is no hierarchical relationship between offender and victim, although the penalty is less: six months to two years in prison.

This new code – which will replace the current one dating from 1985 - responds to a mandate from the 2011 Rights and Duties of Members of the Armed Forces Law. It complements the new military discipline law, which is currently being reviewed by parliament.

Aside from discrimination and sexual harassment issues, the military’s new penal code reflects additional changes and developments that have occurred in the last 28 years. The code places more emphasis on international missions and punishes those who import drugs in military ships or aircraft.

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