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Army bosses in crisis meeting over sexual abuse revelations

Plaque reading 'Ministry of Defence'

Army bosses in crisis meeting over sexual abuse revelations

Senior army officers are meeting 'Defence' Secretary Ben Wallace following revelations about the abuse of young women in the British army.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the UK's leading pacifist organisation, has called for the army to lose the power to police themselves through their own courts and police forces. The UK government recently rejected calls to move rape cases into civilian courts.

Ben Wallace says he wants to “get the culture right” in the army. But young women in the Peace Pledge Union said that meetings and reforms would not make the army a safe place for women, and that the armed forces are by their nature violent and abusive.

Several examples of sexual abuse in the army have made headlines in the last month:

* Of the 290 young women aged 16 or 17 who have joined the army in the last year, 10 of them have already made formal reports of rape or sexual assault, according to official figures published on 18 October.

* It was reported on 24 October that up to seven soldiers may face prosecution over the death of Olivia Perks, a 21-year-old soldier who took her own life at Sandhurst in 2019, allegedly after being sexually exploited.

* Media revelations since October suggest that senior people in the British army engaged in a cover-up to prevent a British soldier being prosecuted for the murder of Agnes Wanjiru, a 21-year-old Kenyan woman killed in 2012.

* Nearly two-thirds of the 4,000 women who gave evidence to a Commons Defence Select Committee inquiry earlier this year had experienced abuse, bullying or harassment in the armed forces.

Anya Nanning Ramamurthy, 20, an elected member of the Peace Pledge Union's national Council, said:

“My thoughts are with the thousands of women who have experienced sexual abuse and discrimination in the army by the very people they work with – in an institution allowed to police itself. It is abhorrent but unfortunately not that surprising. The army is no safe space for women and no amount of reform can change this. Abuse, bullying, discrimination and harassment are systemically ingrained in the military-industrial complex.”

Jess Amy Dixon, a Peace Pledge Union member and writer who is researching a PhD on the #MeToo movement, said:

“In a world in which the mildest criticism of the armed forces is still taboo and sometimes met with abuse, it is absurd to expect the institution to police itself when it comes to something as complex and sensitive as sexual violence. This has been called a #MeToo moment, but #MeToo is partially about exposing and tearing down the systems that make the ubiquity of sexual violence possible. Militarism is one of those systems and I believe it cannot be reformed to be otherwise.”


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