West Dunbartonshire’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has called on the UK government to do more to protect women serving in the armed forces following a damning report published by the parliamentary Defence Select Committee.
Local MP Martin – who is Scotland’s only representative on the Defence Select Committee – has urged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to act quickly over concerns that two-thirds of female personnel have suffered from bullying, harassment, and discrimination during their military careers.
The inquiry by the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces heard evidence from an unprecedented 4,200 current and former servicewomen – representing almost a tenth of the female military population.
The report details shocking testimony from service personnel of incidents of serious sexual assault and rape at military bases, with the MoD’s complaint process being described as “woefully inadequate”.
More than three-quarters of serving female personnel also said they had to use inappropriate, ill-fitting uniform and body armour which placed them at more risk of harm in combat.
Responding on behalf of the UK government, Minister of State for Defence Baroness Goldie thanked the Defence Committee for its work on the inquiry and pledged to carefully examine the findings of the report.
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:
“The evidence we heard of the MoD’s failures to protect women serving in the armed forces has been amongst the most shocking I have witnessed in my years on the Defence Select Committee.
“In West Dunbartonshire, we are home to many current and former military families and I’m grateful to all the women with experience in the armed forces who provided such sobering evidence to our inquiry.
“These women should be proud of their military service and what they have achieved, but as this report makes clear far too many servicewomen have been badly let down by the MoD.
“If the UK government is serious about giving women parity of opportunity in the armed forces, then it must act quickly to address the catalogue of failures detailed in our report.
“The MoD cannot even get the basics of uniform and body armour right for our female military personnel, never mind putting in place robust processes for investigating serious complaints of bullying, sexual harassment and rape.
“The UK Armed Forces must do more to face up to discrimination – be it on the base of gender, origin, sexual orientation or class – which prevents it from being an institution that is truly representative of the people who live across these islands, and to be truly of the society that it protects.”
A link to the report on ‘Women in the Armed Forces’ published by the Defence Select Committee is available here.