French army to act on sexual harassment

Female soldiers in action with French army contingent of UN forces in Lebanon (2001)
Female soldiers in action with French army contingent of UN forces in Lebanon (2001) AFP PHOTO/Jihad SEKLAWI

France’s defence minister is expected to announce new measures to combat sexual harassment in the army after receiving a report on the issue today.


An internal enquiry was set up after dozens of interviews in a book, La Guerre Invisible (The Invisible War), described numerous incidents of harassment or bullying, often by drunken colleagues.

Defence minister Yves Le Drian asked for a comprehensive enquiry, including details of the disciplinary action taken in the cases reported and recommendations on how to tackle the issue.

Women told of humiliation, sexually-loaded remarks, initiations and violence. Many said they were bullied or rejected by their comrades and superiors.

Numerous female soldiers said they were told they ruined the atmosphere and slowed everyone down.

Leila Minano and Julia Pascual, who wrote the book, explained that victims of such behaviour were often persuaded not to lodge formal complaints, and were sometimes transferred to another area of the army in a bid to suppress any scandal.

“Sometimes a female soldier’s complaint was taken seriously and passed up the chain of command to be reported to police. In other cases, the victims did not dare report incidents, or their complaints were simply not pursued by superior officers”, said Pierre Bayle a spokesman for the French army, who described such inaction as “unacceptable”.

15% of the French army is female, a higher proportion of women than any other army in Europe.



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