The Ministry of Defence has published two more policies and a new strategy to help it stamp out ‘unacceptable’ sexual misconduct in the armed forces, including dismissal if behaviours fall below expected standards.
The new policies will be applied across the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and are intended to provide all civilian and military personnel with robust and clear direction to prevent and address behaviours the MoD believes is unacceptable.
They outline what constitutes sexual misconduct and how individuals can report it. Staff are also pointed to where they can find advice through internal communication channels.
The Army’s sexual harassment 2021 report, published earlier this year, revealed that two in three British Army personnel have heard sexual jokes, stories and sexually explicit language at work, while a third have received unwelcome comments or sexually explicit material.
Last year, the MoD said it intended to stamp out the military’s male-dominated culture after the Women in Armed Forces sub-committee found that six in 10 women who had experienced abuse had not complained because they feared career consequences.
Culture in the armed forces
Minister for defence people, Leo Docherty, said: “Abusive, discriminatory or predatory behaviour has no place in our armed forces and these measures send a clear message that these types of behaviours will not be tolerated.
“As a forward-thinking and modern employer, the armed forces are a place where our serving personnel can thrive, and we will continue to expect the highest values and standards of each and every one of them.”
Its tackling sexual offending in defence strategy outlines plans to raise awareness, conduct training and promote a better understanding of the most prevalent types of sexual offences in the armed forces. Victims are urged to come forward to seek support and increased reporting, engagement and prosecutions will be adopted.
A zero tolerance to unacceptable sexual behaviour policy has also been published. This places greater emphasis on the support for victims, with a presumption of discharge from the armed forces for any person who behaves in an unacceptable way.
The MoD will also take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual exploitation and abuse, covering sexual activity where there is an imbalance of power, including buying sex abroad.
Recently, the MoD said it would not tolerate sexual relationships or offences between instructors and trainees.
New guidance says that every allegation will receive prompt and efficient investigation, with appropriate, consistent, and robust consequences for people whose behaviour falls below standards of conduct. This could include administrative, disciplinary or criminal action, or termination of employment and/or discharge from the armed forces.