More than one in seven women (15%) in the Armed Forces has been subject to serious sexual harassment, according to research by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
Almost all (99%) of the 9,384 women who replied to the survey said they had been in situations where sexual jokes, stories, language and material had been present.
Two in three (67%) said they had been the direct target of sexual harassment.
Just over half of female personnel (52%) responded to the sexual harassment survey, which was undertaken as part of an action plan agreed between the MoD and the EOC in June 2005.
The MoD now has until June 2008 to provide measured proof of improvements in the number of reported cases of sexual harassment.
Secretary of state for defence, Des Browne, said the report showed there were serious issues that the government and the Armed Forces needed to address.
“Over the last 10 years, our Armed Forces have been deployed across the world in support of our fundamental democratic values – equal respect, toleration and human rights,” he said. “They are role models and standard-bearers for the values they defend.
“It is, therefore, absolutely vital that these values are clearly upheld within our Armed Forces themselves, and that all our service men and women feel respected and valued, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.”
Jenny Watson, chair of the EOC, said: “Sexual harassment is a serious problem which can cause great harm to individuals and damage entire organisations. Every employer needs to be vigilant to ensure that it does not take root in their organisational culture.”