Army women 'fearful of complaining'

Bicester Advertiser: Labour MP Madeleine Moon claims women in the Army are reluctant to complain about harassment because of possible effects on their careers Labour MP Madeleine Moon claims women in the Army are reluctant to complain about harassment because of possible effects on their careers

A "climate of fear" within the British Army means female service personnel are too "terrified" to come forward with formal harassment complaints against their colleagues, a Labour MP has claimed.

Madeleine Moon, who sits on the Commons Defence Select Committee, said too many women were fearful about the impact that filing a formal complaint could have on their careers.

The Bridgend MP said that sexual intimidation and generally bullying against women was "tolerated a far greater extent" in the Army, compared with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

She said: "We've got quite a big problem, mainly in the Army.

"It's not a pretty picture."

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, she said: "There is a climate of fear where you are absolutely too terrified to put your name to a complaint.

"And that happens when people ring me too. Women will say that they are afraid that it will affect their career, that it will adversely affect how they are able to work with their colleagues. They just don't want to come forward and acknowledge that a problem is there."

Ms Moon's comments follow the release of official figures by the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey in February.

The MP, who has been a dogged activist in championing the status of women within the Ministry of Defence, suggested there was a culture of sexism that was particularly dominant within the Army.

She said complaints of bullying, discrimination and harassment were 12% in the RAF, and 10% in the Navy, whereas they made up three-quarters of all complaints by the Army.

Ms Moon promoted the work of Professor Charlotte Woodhead, of King's College London, who published a report into the well-being of women in the UK armed forces.

The report, said the MP, showed "the importance of good role models, the importance of helplines and top-down clear messages... that this is unacceptable" in dealing with the problem.

Asked if the Army were tough enough when dealing with such allegations, she said: "No, I don't think they are.

"You get the general statement about that 'we abhor all discrimination and that we are opposed to and will strike it down', but actually there is not a clear message coming all the way down.

"At every level women are discriminated against and find it on a daily basis. So unless there is a very clear determination to drive it out, it will remain."

Ms Moon put down the difference in culture within the various armed forces organisations to the larger number of women within the RAF and the discipline within the Navy.

"Within the Navy, it's an issue of discipline and awareness that you cannot have disharmony on a ship, so if you've got two or three women on a ship you cannot have discrimination and harassment because it undermines morale, so they deal with it very firmly."

She added: "It is tolerated a far greater extent within the Army and that's a major problem, and there is a total denial of its existence and they hide behind terms such as banter and horseplay."

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