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Women in the armed forces: it is vital to change mentalities

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has deplored the fact that gender-based harassment and assaults against women are still frequent within the armed forces. Conforming to the existing internal culture is often regarded as a factor of cohesion, instead of recognising that diversity strengthens operational capacities.

Adopting unanimously a draft resolution, based on the report prepared by Maryvonne Blondin (France, SOC), the parliamentarians said that it is vital to change mentalities, step up efforts to prevent such violence and “establish mechanisms for dealing effectively with complaints”.

The text underlines that women who join the armed forces are faced with an environment designed by and for men. “They face many forms of discrimination and are confronted with rigid career plans and mentalities that are still rooted in a purely male approach to the armed forces”, the draft resolution underlines.

To remedy this situation, the parliamentarians listed a series of proposals, notably adapting recruitment strategies so as to eliminate stereotypes, opening all positions in all corps of the armed forces to women and putting in place proactive policies for recruiting women and including them in roles from which they have previously been excluded.

With regard to combating gender-based violence in the armed forces, member States should adopt and ensure the systematic application of a zero-tolerance policy, establish mechanisms, for instance free hotlines, to enable victims to make informal complaints, and define effective penalties and apply them to the perpetrators of violence.

The draft resolution will be debated in Strasbourg during the next plenary PACE session (20 to 24 June 2016).