United Kingdom: Ministry of Defense attacked by accusations of sexism and harassment

The British Ministry of Defense is accused by about sixty of its senior officials of having allowed a “toxic” culture to flourish and of harassment towards women by their male colleagues, “The Guardian” reported on Friday.

In a letter sent to their superiors and revealed by the British newspaper, these women claim that their “daily work (at the headquarters of the ministry) is hampered by behavior that would be considered toxic and inappropriate in public life, but which is tolerated within the Ministry of Defense.

“We are subjected to derogatory language, we are victims of unwanted attention and sexual harassment, including intrusive looks, sexual comments and incessant comments about our clothes, our appearance or our perfume,” they describe.

The Ministry of Defense assured that action is being taken “to resolve the deeply troubling issues raised” by this letter.

“No woman should feel unsafe in Defence, and this behavior will not be tolerated,” the ministry added.

The FDA union, which represents civil service executives, called for “an immediate investigation into these allegations.”

“The stories of these women’s experiences are deeply disturbing. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect in their workplace,” the union reacted to X (formerly Twitter).

According to the authors of the letter, the problems raised are not old but “current”. And they say that complaints and reports on these issues “have generally been downplayed rather than listened to.”

The Ministry of Defense is not the first British public organization to face such accusations in recent years.

The London police, the fire brigade, but also the Parliament have been accused of having allowed a sexist culture to flourish and acts of moral or sexual harassment against women.

In the private sector, the main employers’ association, the CBI, was also rocked last spring by allegations of sexual assault, including two rapes. Its director was fired and many members left the organization.