The progress made in fighting widespread sexual harassment in the Armed Forces will be scrutinised by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) later this month.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) will report to the commission on its progress on 31 January as part of its three-year plan to combat the laddish culture that currently exists.
The House of Commons Defence Committee said in December that sexual harassment had reached “alarming levels” in the Armed Forces. Its report found that 99% of servicewomen had been put in “sexualised” situations, with one in seven reporting a “particularly upsetting experience”.
Offending behaviour included unwelcome comments, the sending of sexually explicit material, unwanted touching and sexual assaults. As part of an agreement signed with the EOC in June 2005, the MoD pledged to report on its progress every six months from 31 January 2007.
The Commons committee increased the pressure on the MoD by saying it expected to see big steps in tackling the issue. “We look to the MoD to make significant progress in reducing the incidents of sexual harassment in the Armed Forces, and intend to monitor this issue closely,” said the report.
A spokesman for the MoD said it had made major progress. It had revised its harassment complaints procedures, introduced six-monthly summaries of harassment complaint logs, and raised awareness of the problem, including discussions across the services with staff at every level.
“Our research has shown that, while there is not a culture of harassment, there are inconsistencies in the application of policy,” said the spokesman. “The action plan we have under the agreement aims to create a culture where inappropriate behaviours are challenged, especially by anyone in a position of leadership.”