Investigation into sexual harassment in armed forces ends The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)has informed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that it has completed its formal investigation into sexual harassment of women in the armed forces. The Commission and the MoD will now begin a new partnership to tackle bullying and inappropriate behaviour relating to race, sexuality and religion as well as gender. The move comes after the MoD was able to demonstrate that it had made a concerted effort to tackle the lack of official support for staff who wanted to report claims of harassment. They have also put in place a robust and fair way of handling complaints which staff have found helpful as well as making it clear that harassment will not be tolerated. However, though good processes are now in place, the Commission has pointed to recent staff surveys done by the MoD in conjunction with the Commission which reveal that there are still problems of harassment in the forces. The survey raised concerns about a continuing ‘canteen culture’ of harassment within the armed forces: (i) 24% of those surveyed in 2007 said they had been sent sexually explicit material; (ii) 41% of those surveyed in 2007 experienced vulgar gestures or body language of a sexual nature. The Commission will now work with the MoD at addressing these issues of culture, looking at examples from Europe and America of how armed forces and other uniformed services have dealt with similar problems. There will be regular meetings to check progress, culminating in a summit next year.
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