UNITED KINGDOM: Women serving the armed forces who are victims of sexual assault, bullying, harassment and discrimination are being “denied justice” by a “woefully inadequate” military complaints procedure, MPs on the defence select committee have said in a landmark report.
In what is said to be one of the most important reports in its history, the Commons Defence Sub-Committee accuses the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of “failing to protect female personnel” and the military chain of command of “letting them down”. The report also states that women are being blocked from “achieving their full potential” by not having an adequate system in place to counter the abuse.
The defence committee heard evidence from more than 4,000 women – including veterans and those still serving.
One-third of servicewomen taking part in a survey for the report maintained that the complaints procedure was “extremely poor”. The MPs’ committee revealed that with little faith in the complaints system, more than half of the military women did not report what they had suffered.
The report also said that conviction rates of serious sexual offences in the military are four and six times lower than in civilian courts. It says: “From our evidence, it is clear to us that serious sexual offences should not be tried in the court-martial system. Military women are being denied justice.”
The MPs said it was “extraordinary” that the MoD was not getting basics like uniforms and equipment right. Faults included “armoured plates restricting movement, oversized helmets restricting vision, and servicewomen deliberately dehydrating themselves due to limited systems for female urination.”
In response to the report, MoD said many changes had been introduced to help women in the Armed Forces.
Transcontinental Times learned that the government is carrying out urgent reforms to the service complaints system, by way of a pilot scheme that attempts to cut the time taken by investigations from 12 to six weeks. There will also be a pledge by the armed forces chain of command to provide sustained support to personnel while inquiries take place.
As well as harassment and bullying, the committee found that servicewomen face problems with equipment that exposes them to the “danger of life-threatening injuries”.
The report, titled “Women in the Armed Forces: From Recruitment to Civilian Life”, found that around 84% of servicewomen questioned said they faced additional challenges compared to their male counterparts.