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UK Defence Ministry vows action over ‘toxic’ work culture claims

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said yesterday it was “taking action” after dozens of senior female staff complained of a “hostile” and “toxic” environment and sexual assault and harassment within the department.

Around 60 women working in civilian roles at the ministry’s headquarters and elsewhere detailed their complaints in a letter to its top civil servant last month, The Guardian newspaper reported.

Accompanied by anonymous testimonies of the alleged experiences, they included claims that female staff had been propositioned, “groped” and “touched repeatedly” by male colleagues.

“We are taking action to tackle the deeply concerning issues raised,” the ministry, one of the largest British government departments, said in a statement following The Guardian report.

“No woman should be made to feel unsafe in defence and this behaviour will not be tolerated.

“We also continue to encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed this kind of inexcusable behaviour to report it immediately.”

The claims are the latest allegations of sexual harassment and other toxic working practices to hit a major British establishment institution.

Female staff working in Parliament, London’s Metropolitan Police and other forces, the capital’s fire service, and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have all come forward with damning complaints in recent years.

In the letter from “senior civilian women” at the MoD, seen by The Guardian, they said their “day-to-day professional lives are made difficult thanks to behaviours that would be considered toxic and inappropriate in public life”.

Britain’s Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. PHOTO: AFP
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