International Prevalence of Sexual Assault in the Military
last updated August 2013
 
 
Not every country allows women to serve alongside men in the military. However, incidents of sexual assaults against female soldiers are slowly beginning to emerge from countries that allow women in the service.
 
Israel is one of the only countries in the world where women are drafted into military service alongside men. Although Israel boasts of the gender equality policies established by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), the number of indictments for sexual offenses nearly doubled in 2012.[1]  This number reflects a number of high-profile incidents. For example, at the Israeli Air Force preparatory school, Hatechni, in Be’er Sheva, three instructors were arrested for “rape, consensual but prohibited sexual relations with a minor and sexual abuse.”[2] However, Israel has been applauded internationally for being forthcoming about the number of sexual abuse cases within the IDF. According to Israeli Movement for Freedom of Information director Alona Winograd, "The fact that the IDF chose to share this information with the public should set an example to others. As defense organizations are predominantly led by men, it is important that the public knows that women's safety is cared for."[3] In fact, although the number of complaints of sexual abuse and harassment is up by 80% in the last five years, this is thought by some to partially reflect Israel’s increased efforts to encourage commanders to report abuse.[4]
 
Canada has also increased efforts to shed light on the issue. The Canadian government conducted a study in 2013 surveying 68,000 Canadian troops about incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault. As of August 2013, the results of the study are still forthcoming. The last time such a study was conducted in Canada was in 1998.[5]
 
Like the United States, the United Kingdom has received extensive negative press about the military’s handling of sexual assault. For example, the U.K. Ministry of Defense was criticized in 2013 for allowing more than 20 soldiers to continue serving in the military after they had been placed on the sex offender registry.[6] In 2012, it was reported that one rape or sexual assault was reported by members of the British Armed Forces every week. British Members of Parliament believe this is a large underestimate, however, and estimate figures are actually closer to one attack per day.[7]
 
In the case of Eritrea, many members of the military, including women, are drafted into service.  Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report on Eritrea confirms that women in the Eritrean military experience sexual assaults, often from high-ranking officers.[8] Information about military sexual assault has been revealed through Eritrean asylum claims in countries such as Norway, when victims have the opportunity to escape the system denying them justice. Through these reports, compiled in “Eritrea: Sexual Assault of Women in the Military Supporting Documents,” the magnitude of the assaults becomes increasingly clear, as sexual assaults are described as a “systematic practice.”[9]
 
Peru is another example where incidences of sexual assaults of women in the military have surfaced. A thesis from the University of Oslo, Faculty of Law builds on a number of interviews to report a prevalence of sexual assaults against women in the Peruvian military.[10]
 
There are few reported or researched studies or cases  of sexual assault in the military worldwide; but it is clear that the studies that do exist only reflect a fraction of the reality. There is a definite need for further studies and reports on the sexual assault of women in militaries around the world.


[1] Gili Cohen, “Indictments for sex crimes in IDF doubled in 2012,” Haaretz,  June 15, 2013, http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/1.529845.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Noam Barkan, “IDF: Rise in sexual harassment complaints,” YNetNews.com, August 5, 2012, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4264554,00.html.  
[4] Ibid.
[5] Sue Bailey and Alison Auld, “Canadian Forces survey asks troops to shed light on sexual assault, harassment,” The Edmonton Journal, June 9, 2013, http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Canadian+Forces+survey+asks+troops+shed+light+sexual/8500448/story.html.
[6] Sean Rayment, “Army law chief: Surge in Armed Forces sex and abuse cases will cause 'political storm',” Daily Mail, May 4, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2319658/Anne-Marie-Ellement-Surge-Armed-Forces-sex-abuse-cases-cause-political-storm.html.
[7] Daniel Martin, “One sex attack reported by Armed Forces every week... but real figure could be much higher,” Daily Mail, August 27, 2012, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2194489/One-sex-attack-reported-Armed-Forces-week--real-figure-higher.html.
[8]“World Report 2012,” Human Rights Watch, accessed August 9, 2013, http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-eritrea
[9]United States Department of State, Eritrea: Sexual Abuse of Women in the Military, Supplemental List of Supporting Documents, accessed August 9, 2013, http://www.makeeverywomancount.org/images/stories/documents/USDepartmentofState_EritreaAbuseOfWomenInTheMIlitary_2009.pdf
[10]“Structural Sexual Violence in the Peruvian Military: An Empirical Study of Discrimination against Women and its consequences in the Peruvian Armed Forces,” Thesis from the University of Oslo, December 10, 2010,