Under changes proposed by the Pentagon, frequenting a prostitute could soon be a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As soon as early next year, military members who pay for sexual services could face a dishonorable discharge and up to a year in jail.
The change is part of an ongoing effort by the Defense Department to combat human trafficking. If approved, the changes would apply to military members even in countries where prostitution is legal.
“We will not be relying on host-nation laws,” Charles Abell, principal deputy undersecretary for defense for personnel and readiness, told the House Armed Services Committee in a September 21, 2004, hearing. He added that the proposed change to the UCMJ adds teeth to the Pentagon’s existing zero tolerance policy on prostitution. “It makes it more visible to that service member who might be tempted,” he added.
“This is a major step forward in ending modern-day slavery. In some nations, the U.S. military fuels the prostitution industry and thus our military becomes a major contributor to the international crime industries and to the social ills of nations where our bases are located,” noted Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow with the Beverly LaHaye Institute.
“It’s about time we made prostitution illegal for soldiers,” Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, (U.S. Army ret.) told Concerned Women for America (CWA). “I spent a year in South Korea where prostitution was common, especially at bars frequented by our soldiers. Those same soldiers suffered from sexually transmitted diseases and, besides, the immoral behavior had tragic implications for military marriages.”
Prostitution and human trafficking remain big problems for the military, but Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), told Congress that progress is being made.
“As part of our aggressive, ongoing efforts to curb prostitution and human trafficking in this area, our increased law-enforcement efforts have also resulted in the prosecution of more than 400 servicemen for related offenses, such as curfew violation and trespassing in posted off-limits locations,” LaPorte said.
He added that USFK has a list of more than 600 bars, restaurants and clubs off-limits to military personnel, and military police have stepped up undercover operations seeking to identify suspected sites of prostitution and trafficking.
“Our soldiers are among the richest in the world,” added Maginnis. “Today, U.S. service members can be found in 120 nations and too often some of our soldiers show the ugly side of America by soliciting prostitutes.”
Today, 60 percent of U.S. military members are married, making the crackdown easier. Still, LaPorte said that USFK is targeting informational ads at 18- to 23-year-old men about the consequences of using prostitutes.
“Prosecuting someone for soliciting a prostitute could be a burden for our commanders,” Maginnis added. “However, having a law on the books makes enforcement of a clear moral code much easier. Threatening to prosecute violators is often enough to keep some soldiers faithful to their waiting wives.”
“Anytime an American soldier goes to a prostitute it causes harm to a woman, girl or child created in the image of God. This crackdown on prostitution is an example of how presidential leadership influences policy. In this and numerous other instances, American policies now support CWA’s values and beliefs. Best of all, though, this policy acknowledges that prostitution is inherently harmful to women,” Crouse said.
The drafted Article 134 of the UCMJ could become law early next year. Currently, it is part of the 2004 annual review of proposed amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial. The review began this month and is undergoing the 60-day public notice and comment period required by law.
For more in-depth information on this subject, see the House Armed Services Committee Web site.