Army chiefs pledge to tackle harassment of women in the military

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Army leaders have pledged to deal with concerns around bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination in the military.

Following a “full and frank” meeting with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, said there were “core and cultural issues” in the service they needed to address.

The meeting with members of the Army Board followed a report into the treatment of women in the armed forces led by Tory MP and former soldier Sarah Atherton.

She found that almost two thirds of women had experienced bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination while serving in the Army.

The report, made up of the findings of interviews with more than 4,000 servicewomen and female veterans, also included accounts of rape or sex for advancement.

Nearly 40% of 993 women asked reported that their experience of the complaints system was “extremely poor”.

Six out of 10 women said they had not reported bullying, harassment or discrimination due to a lack of faith in the system.

There are more than 20,000 women currently serving in the armed forces.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Sarah Atherton (House of Commons)

In a joint statement following the meeting, Mr Wallace and Gen Carleton-Smith said: “We had a full and frank discussion about a range of issues.

“The British Army is only as good as the people who serve in it and the leadership exhibited by officers and senior non-commissioned officers.

“Recent events have brought to light important issues that require all our people to play their part in resolving.

“We agreed that together we will address these core and cultural issues.

“Later this month the Army will set out exciting new plans for its future structure and deployments. It is an exciting offer and the Army should be proud of the work it has done.”

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Wallace said he would also be raising the issue of delays to the new Ajax armoured vehicle programme.

Only a dozen of 589 vehicles have been delivered, despite more than £3.2 billion being spent already.

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