Women of Honour: Abuse of female soldiers will not end without proper sanctions

Women of Honour: Abuse of female soldiers will not end without proper sanctions

Defence Minister Simon Coveney set up an independent review group to assess the Defence Forces as a safe workplace.

Abuse of female soldiers in the Defence Forces will carry on happening until proper sanctions are put in place, the Women of Honour have said.

The comment comes as it has emerged that two more sexual allegations by female soldiers have been made against male colleagues in the past five months.

It is not immediately clear if the allegations are historical, but they add to the 16 allegations already made by female soldiers since January 1, 2020.

As the Irish Examiner reported in July, female soldiers had made almost as many sexual allegations against male colleagues in the previous 12 months as they had in the past decade.

Allegations of sexism, bullying, sexual assault and rape were raised by members of the Women of Honour group of serving and ex-serving women featured in an RTÉ documentary last year.

'People feel they can now speak out'

A spokesperson for the group said: “While no one wants there to be any allegations or occurrences of sexual assault or indeed assaults or abuse of any nature, it is encouraging people feel they can now speak out.

“There has never been a doubt that this has happened, is happening and will continue into the future until proper investigations, accountability and sanctions are in place.”

The new tally of 18 allegations to date in the 2020s, which now brings the number of allegations higher than in the past decade, range from sexual assault to inappropriate behaviour.

Five are categorised as “indecent or sexual assault” and 11 as “inappropriate behaviour”.

One of the allegations has been referred to gardaí and one relates to an incident that occurred overseas.

News of the allegations made up to July of this year came after Defence Minister Simon Coveney was told in June last year there had been “just one” such allegation up to that point in the 2020s.

Defence chiefs also told him there had been a significant decline in allegations since the 1980s which was, they said, “a reflection of more robust and proactive processes” and “more awareness” within the Defence Forces.

The report at that point said there had been 17 allegations made during the 2010s, down from 54 in the 1980s.

Independent review

Mr Coveney said he has a duty of care to all those who serve the State, including almost 600 female personnel. Last January he set up an independent review group to assess the systems, structures and culture in the Defence Forces to ensure a safe workplace for all.

The Women of Honour group, however, has long maintained the entire issue needs to be the subject of a statutory inquiry instead of what they have previously dubbed “a weak administrative review”.

A spokesperson for the group said: “As far as the IRG is concerned, we anxiously await the report and are hopeful that common sense will prevail in regard to the need for a statutory process.”

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