A recent survey of women serving in the British Armed Forces revealed that many servicewomen are not coming forward to report incidences of sexual harassment. Following the survey, General Sir Nick Carter, the chief of the British Army, has announced that the Army will develop a new code of conduct for all forces personnel to ensure that everyone is treated “in an inclusive way”.
What is Being Proposed?
The new Army Leadership Code was announced by General Carter at Army Leadership Code. He said the code of conduct was an attempt to tackle incidences of sexual harassment and bullying, but rejected concerns that the code would turn the Armed Forces into a “politically correct brigade”.
Speaking after a year in his post as the Chief of General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter said that the Armed Forces must not tolerate behaviour which is inappropriate, and which has in the past caused personnel to put in claims for prejudice and sexual discrimination.
The new Code aims to promote tolerance, and tackle behavioural issues such as sexual harassment or bullying.
In response to the earlier survey, General Carter branded the level of sexual harassment reported by female services personnel as “totally unacceptable”.
Army survey – shocking results
General Carter’s words come after the revelation that 40% of female services personnel reported being sexually harassed in the previous 12 months, but did not report what had happened as they feared it might affect their career prospects.
The first survey, which was carried out by the Army among 7,000 members of the Armed Forces discovered that:
- Nearly 40% of female services personnel had received unwanted comments about their sexuality or looks over the past 12 months.
- 13% of women surveyed said that they had experienced a “particularly upsetting experience”.
- A third of them said that someone had attempted to engage them in unwelcome conversations of a sexual nature.
- One in 8 – 12% – said that they had experienced unwelcome attempts to touch them.
- Only 3% of women who had been very upset by an event had come forward to make a formal complaint.
- Nearly two thirds of people surveyed reported that incidents had happened at their training unit or base.
- 44% of respondents stated that they believed that in some parts of the Army, harassment was a problem.
It was also found that senior officers were four times less likely to report sexual harassment than more junior soldiers.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that between 2011 and 2013, 75 reports of rape and 150 of sexual assault were made to the military police.
In July 2014 there were 15,780 women serving in the British military, which equates to around 1 in 10 of the total numbers of service personnel.
Earlier concerns raised by the Service Complaints Commissioner
Military watchdogs raised concerns about the failing complaints system last year.
Susan Atkins, the Service Complaints Commissioner (SCC), said that there had been a rise in the number of reported cases of discrimination, bullying and harassment in 2013, reversing the trend of the previous years. She said that this situation was a “serious challenge” for senior Army management. She also reiterated that a staggering 40% of female personnel had been victims of sexual harassment in the past year.
SCC had set improvement goals for the Army for 2013, none of which were met. Dr Atkins raised serious concerns about the length of time it took to deal with complaints received from service personnel.
According to the report, complaints received by the Army were up 12% over the year. Only 25% of these were resolved in the target period of 24 weeks, and only 26% were resolved after a year.
Charities working with services personnel welcomed the new Code, saying it would be a positive step for the Armed Forces.
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