Women in the armed forces have to live and work in an environment that was designed by and for men and are confronted with many forms of discrimination and violence. The highest positions in the army are most frequently held by men. In some European countries, women are excluded from certain jobs such as combat-related employment. Women in the armed forces are also subject to prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination. The fact that they might “distract” their male colleagues is sometimes put forward as a reason for excluding them from certain jobs. Moreover, armed forces accommodation is not always designed to be shared by both sexes.
Sexual harassment and assaults on women are widespread problems in the armed forces. An American study has shown that female soldiers are three times more likely to be raped than other women. Some States have put internal procedures in place to report and punish these acts of violence. However, it is frequently observed that women have little confidence in these mechanisms and prefer not to speak out and, in some cases, even prefer to leave the army.
As a follow-up to Recommendation 1742 (2006) on the human rights of members of the armed forces, the Parliamentary Assembly should consider the specific issue of the status of women in the armed forces, irrespective of whether they are military or civilian staff, so as to take stock of the situation and, on this basis, identify good practices and make recommendations to the member States of the Council of Europe.