Female soldiers will be able to disclose abuse allegations to MPs in new inquiry

Sophia Sleigh
·2-min read
<p>The inquiry will look at the experience of female service personnel </p> (PA Archive/PA Images)

The inquiry will look at the experience of female service personnel

(PA Archive/PA Images)

Female soldiers will be able to tell MPs about the sexual assaults and abuse they have faced as an inquiry is launched into their experiences in the military.

The Defence Committee is launching an investigation into women in the armed forces, chaired by Tory MP Sarah Atherton.

It has been made possible after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace lifted a gagging order which stops service personnel talking to parliamentarians without authorisation.

The inquiry comes amid claims that a culture of silence persists within the armed forces in which alleged victims are stonewalled.

The conviction rates in military courts for rape cases are up to six times lower than in civilian courts.

Ms Atherton, who served in the Intelligence Corps, said: “Too many incidences of bullying, harassment and rape in the military are not being investigated properly.” She has previously led calls to reform the way alleged victims are treated in the armed forces.

The inquiry will look at the experience of female service personnel from recruitment to civilian life with the intention of it becoming a sub-committee.

It will also look at whether the Government is doing enough to help, if the experiences of female BAME personnel differ and why women leave the armed forces.

Ms Atherton said women make a “vital” contribution to the armed forces but “serious challenges remain”.

She added: “Female personnel are more likely to make complaints, more likely to report mental health difficulties and more likely to be subject to sexual assaults.

“We need to understand the scale, nature and root of the challenges that female personnel face. Only then can we begin to address the incidence in which the services have failed female serving personnel and identify the solutions.”

Ms Atherton said she hopes the inquiry will provide those who have “too often struggled to get their voices heard” a platform to discuss their experiences without fear of repercussions.

Other areas the committee hope to cover includes issues around pensions, terms and conditions of employment, housing and general wellbeing.