Sexual harassment in the Armed Forces has reached “alarming levels”, according to a government report.
The House of Commons Defence Committee annual report found that 99% of service women had been put in sexualised situations in the past year.
Two-thirds of women respondents said such behaviour had been directed at them personally, while one in seven reported a “particularly upsetting experience”.
The committee said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had recognised the problem of sexual harassment but needed to do much more to tackle it.
“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.
The MoD was also slated for going backwards in its drive to recruit more black people and ethnic minorities.
On 1 April 2006, black and ethnic minority personnel made up 2.4% of the service – down from 2.5% three years earlier.
“We are very disappointed by the MoD’s poor performance against its diversity targets,” said the Commons report.
“In addition, the MoD seems to have little grasp of the reasons behind its failure to recruit black and ethnic minorities in sufficient numbers.”
Speculation that the Armed Forces were near breaking point were fuelled by the report.
“With problems of undermanning continuing, there is a clear danger that the Armed Forces will not be capable of maintaining current commitments over the medium-term,” it said, adding that staff training was suffering due to this stretching of the forces.
“In view of the crucial importance of training to our Armed Services, this is of deepest concern to us.”
However, the MoD insisted the report was mainly positive and said it would respond formally in due course.
“We welcome the House of Commons Defence Committee’s report, which concludes that overall performance is satisfactory,” said a statement.
“The committee commends the department’s overall success in delivering its objectives. The MoD welcomes the fact that the committee recognises that these achievements are being made, despite the demands generated by the high tempo of operations.”
The number of women in the services has grown in recent years, and they now account for 9% of UK regular forces.