The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Half of all women in Armed Forces face sex attacks and bullying
MORE than half the women in the Armed Forces have suffered sex attacks, bullying and harassment in the ‘man’s world’ of Britain’s military, a landmark report has found.
MPs uncovered shocking evidence of the bullying, sexual harassment and rape experienced by Servicewomen – along with claims that senior officers are ‘sweeping their complaints under the rug’.
Based on unprecedented access to service personnel, the Commons’ Defence Committee said 58 per cent of women serving in the military reported experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination.
That rose to 64 per cent of women who had now left the Services.
But MPs found that six in ten women did not report the harassment they suffered.
The report – based on the testimony of one in ten female personnel in the regular Forces – also uncovered an ‘extraordinary’ failure by the Ministry of Defence to even get women the right size uniforms and equipment. MPs cited stories of women’s lives being put at risk because they were sent to fight with ill-fitting protective armour or oversized helmets that restricted their vision.
In response, the Defence Committee called on the MoD to:
Remove sexual assault cases from military courts and hand them to civilian courts;
Set up a defence authority to handle bullying, harassment and discrimination complaints;
Replace ill-fitting uniforms and equipment, and give better consideration to women’s health issues.
The committee inquiry, chaired by Tory MP Sarah Atherton, also urged the MoD to improve on ‘glacial’ progress of recruitment of women into the Forces and improve how veterans were treated.
Ms Atherton, who served in the Army’s Intelligence Corps, said the committee had heard ‘accounts of bullying, harassment, discrimination, laddish behaviour, and sometimes serious sexual assault and rape’.
She said: ‘It is difficult not to be moved by the stories of trauma, both emotional and physical, suffered by women at the hands of their colleagues.’ Insisting that ‘military women are being denied justice,’ she called the current complaints system ‘woefully inadequate’ and cited accusations of senior officers ‘sweeping complaints under the rug to protect their careers’.
Ministers are set to boost the number of disabled people working alongside military personnel.
The aim is to increase the proportion of people with disabilities employed in the MoD’s civilian workforce to just over 15 per cent by 2030 – up from 12.3 per cent in 2020.