Sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying claims continue to emerge from the UK armed forces

Surveys and research in the last couple of years have identified institutional discrimination and harassment in the UK’s armed forces. Reports continue to appear and more cases are being revealed in what is becoming a widespread issue for the Ministry of Defence and service personnel, both present and past.

More reports are likely to unveil themselves with the assistance of military solicitors following a supposed cultural and policy shift in the armed forces that’s been implemented this month after a period of review and evaluation. But will it make a real difference in armed forces culture?

Findings from the Sexual Harassment Reports last year

Each of the armed forces released its triannual Sexual Harassment Surveys last year with some shocking findings being revealed. Evidence suggests that servicewomen are disproportionately impacted by sexual harassment – for example, 33% of surveyed servicewomen in the Army had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment compared to just 7% of men.

In the RAF, the same question resulted in 21% of women compared to 6% of men – providing clear evidence of an institutionally discriminatory and threatening work environment. Suspiciously, specific findings from the Royal Navy were not shared, potentially indicating an even more dire situation on the seas.

badge on rmed forces

More recent evidence

More headlines in the news have drawn attention to these issues recently, most notably in the last week, two Red Arrows pilots have been sacked following investigations into sexual harassment and bullying. Similar reports are emerging from all over the armed forces, and that’s just higher profile cases.

The issues appear to be instilled from the very top as this week a senior Navy officer was arrested following allegations of sexual assault on a junior sailor. This was reportedly not long before an arranged session on harassment and misconduct in the Royal Navy – which paints a real picture of the full scale of this epidemic.

What are the Armed Forces doing about it?

So, what are the Armed Forces doing about this situation? A few days ago the Army, Navy and RAF implemented a new zero-tolerance policy following months of internal review, evaluation and strategic planning.

These policies intend to increase the punishment for sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination including potential immediate discharge. It’s the next development in the strategy created by the Ministry of Defence to stamp out sexual misconduct – but only time will tell as to its effectiveness.