Today, the Defence Select Committee has published the Ministry of Defence's response to the 'Women in the Armed Forces' inquiry. This was the inquiry that I chaired earlier this year.
The response outlines the steps that the MOD will now take to build upon the findings of my report. Of note, the MOD have agreed to make changes to the services complaints system, removing the Chain of Command from the process. My inquiry found that six out of ten women do not complain about instances of abuse because they believe that their complaints will not be taken seriously or because they feel that complaining might detrimentally impact their careers. Therefore, the MOD's decision to remove the Chain of Command will make a significant impact on servicewomen's lives.
Since the inquiry launched, the MOD have also made changes around women's health, body armour and uniform in response to the evidence gathered by my inquiry, highlighting the impact the inquiry has already had. It is good that the Government has accelerated workstreams on these issues, to further the work that has already been done. The ambition within the response is therefore welcome: let’s make sure these targets are met, not missed.
However, it is disappointing that the Ministry of Defence has refused to remove cases of rape from the Court Martial jurisdiction despite clear evidence that the current system is failing to deliver justice. The response also provides little clarity on improvements for veterans, and I hope that the Ministry of Defence will go further in 2022 to ensure that available services are meeting their needs – including for those with in-service experiences of sexual harassment, assault and rape
As such, I will continue to advocate on behalf of female servicewomen and veterans to make sure the assurances given by the MOD are put into place and to make sure further improvements are considered.
The full Government response can be found here.
I also spoke about the Government's response on BBC Woman's Hour, you can catch up my interview here.
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