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British army's hidden sexual harassment problem slowly coming to light

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Female soldiers in the British army are subject to widespread sexual harassment and abuse

As the British army tries to come to terms with its failure to fully capitalize on the propaganda potential of the coronavirus crisis it now has to contend with a new headache, notably female soldiers complaining of sexual harassment.

A senior former female army officer has told Sky News that the British army needs its own #MeToo “moment” to address “all past and present cases of sexual assault, harassment and everyday sexism”.

Lieutenant Colonel Diane Allen, who left the army in February, told Sky News she was part of a private “outpouring of grievances” by female army officers in a “closed online forum”, which was triggered by sexual harassment claims leveled at disgraced Holywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.  

Although popularized by the Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement in fact has a deeper history.

In short it is a generic international movement aimed at empowering women in the face of sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace at the hands of powerful male bosses.

Its origins can be traced to the activism of African-American woman Tarana Burke beginning in 2006.

Lt Col Allen recounted to Sky News some of her harrowing experiences in the British army. These include drunken male soldiers trying to break down her bedroom door at the barracks she was based in the 1990s with a view to raping her.

She also claims she was denied promotion three years ago because of issues related to gender and sexuality.

From her discussion with Sky News it is clear that Allen is solely focused on fighting sexual harassment inside the British army as she does not discuss the army’s horrific record of violating the rights and honor of female citizens of foreign countries.

Earlier this year it was reported that the army’s much-vaunted 3rd Parachute regiment was caught up in a prostitution scandal in Kenya.  

Allen’s attempt to start a movement inside the army to bring all cases of sexual harassment to light – and to subsequently demand accountability – will be viewed as highly unwelcome by army commanders and their civilian bosses in the Ministry of Defense.

The British army is already grappling with issues related to racial discrimination with the latest survey indicating that a high percentage of ethnic minority soldiers suffer from bullying and broader discriminatory practices.

Furthermore, army bosses have to contend with a long-standing recruitment challenge stretching back three decades.  


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