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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
MoD begins anti-harassment drive
Women soldiers
The MoD wants to stamp out sexual harassment
A new drive to rid the armed forces of sexual harassment has been launched by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The move comes after a study by the MoD and Equal Opportunities Commission revealed "widespread" problems, including offensive jokes and language.

Some 99% of the 9,384 servicewomen surveyed had witnessed "sexualised behaviour" in the past year.

And one in seven women said they had suffered a "particularly upsetting" experience, including sexual assault.

The research revealed that jokes, stories, language and material offensive to women were widespread across all three armed services.

"It is clear from the research we have conducted that we have a problem which we must deal urgently with," said Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff.

He went on: "This is not about political correctness, it is about operational effectiveness.

'Serious issues'

"Our success as armed forces depends fundamentally on respect, trust and mutual interdependence.

"Anything that weakens those bonds of trust and respect weakens us as a fighting force. Harassment does just that, so it is crucial that we deal with it."

Last year the EOC suspended a formal investigation in to the problem of sexual harassment in the armed forces on condition that the issue was addressed by the MoD.

The creation of a new action plan is part of that process and the MoD said the move demonstrated its commitment to tackling the "serious issues" highlighted by the study.

In a statement, the MoD said: "The action plan aims to ensure that leaders in the armed forces take seriously their responsibilities to deal with harassment by handling complaints appropriately and implementing effective monitoring arrangements.

HARASSMENT FIGURES
Some 99% of servicewomen had experienced "sexualised behaviour" in the past year.
Some 15% of respondents had undergone "particularly upsetting" experiences.
Some 94% those who had an upsetting experience tried to deal with it themselves.
Of those who were particularly upset, only 5% made a formal written complaint.
Over 50% of those who complained said there had been negative consequences.
Some 86% of servicewomen support penalties for harassment perpetrators.

"Service personnel would be encouraged to offer their views on how to prevent and deal with sexual harassment."

These sentiments were echoed by Defence Secretary Des Browne who said there were "serious issues" that needed to be addressed.

And Jenny Watson, the EOC chairwoman, said the MoD had undertaken valuable research to discover the true extent of sexual harassment in the armed forces.

She said the body would be working with the MoD over the coming months "as they improve working conditions for service personnel".

"Working together, we hope to ensure that this commitment translates into real improvements for the men and women who do such a vital job for our country," she said.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
One of the sexual harassment cases embarassing the armed forces



SEE ALSO:
Armed forces admit sex harassment
23 Jun 05 |  UK Politics
RAF women are 'sexually harassed'
24 Jan 05 |  Hereford/Worcs
Fears over UK forces' readiness
15 Jun 05 |  UK Politics


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