In military law, a general article is one that encompasses a broad range of offenses, and not one single category. A general article is drafted as intentionally vague and inexplicit to act as a "catch-all" to many different types of offenses. In the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Article 134 is one of the most well-known provisions and one that is regularly employed in court-martial and other disciplinary proceedings.
Article 134 of the UCMJ states in full:
Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.
10 U.S.C § 934, Art. 134 (1956).
Of all offenses that can be bootstrapped by Article 134, fraternization is one of the most commonly seen. Article 92 of the UCMJ has been used as well, however Article 134 is a much more common approach. Just as Article 134 may be used to cover a wide array of offenses, the article is also flexible in the degree of punishment available – from reprimand to court-martial.
Fraternization, simply put, is the unlawful spectrum of relationships that can arise between soldiers of different ranks. The reasoning for punishing fraternization is the fear of undue pressure and influence that the higher ranked officer may employ against its subordinate, possibly through coercion and even intimidation. Even if the officers are later married, past fraternization may not completely dissipate if it is found to be inappropriate at the time of occurrence.
This is not to suggest that soldiers of different ranks may never have any sort of relationship; but rather that the soldiers must always be cognizant of the possibility of fraternization or the appearance thereof. All communications between soldiers will be subject to examination if accusations of fraternization arise. Thus, all types of evidence, from direct to circumstantial, are available to prove or disprove allegations of fraternization.