BBK hosts Women in Defence Parliamentary Reception ahead of Armed Forces Day
Last week, Bolt Burdon Kemp (BBK) proudly sponsored its first Parliamentary reception supporting the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Women in Defence. We all recognise the incredible and invaluable contribution of our female service personnel, and women across defence, so it was great to celebrate them at this reception, ahead of Armed Forces Day tomorrow (June 24).
Our specialist military claims team have long campaigned for improvements for women in the military and veterans, including changes to the Service Justice System, the removal of the Chain of Command from complaints of a sexual nature and combatting bullying, harassment and discrimination in the services. After BBK’s Head of Military claims, Ahmed Al-Nahhas appeared before the Defence Committee to give evidence to the Women in the Armed Forces inquiry in March 2021, we were delighted to be invited back to sponsor the event in Parliament, celebrating the progress for servicewomen so far.
The event was hosted by Sarah Atherton MP, chair of the APPG and author of the Defence Committee report into the military experience of servicewomen and female veterans, titled: ‘Protecting those who protect us: Women in the Armed Force from Recruitment to Civilian Life’. Attended by stakeholders from across defence, including defence companies, Government Ministers, service women, charity partners and MPs with a defence interest, the group will provide a voice for women in all areas of defence.
Speaking alongside Sarah and the Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, Ahmed spoke about the changes he has seen since he gave evidence, especially in the last two years. Attitudes within defence have improved, due to initiatives such as the Zero Tolerance Policy, the announcement of an upcoming Women’s’ Veterans Strategy and the establishment of the Defence Serious Crime Unit and Victim Witness Care Unit. However, there is a long way to go.
Armed Force Continuous Attitude Survey (AFCAS) figures released a fortnight before the APPG event showed that one in eight of all personnel report that they have been subject to bullying, harassment of discrimination in a service environment in the last 12 month. This is worse than the year before when the figure was one in ten. Sadly, 12% of female personnel report being subject to sexual harassment, compared to less than 1% of male personnel. On this, there has been no improvement in the last two years. Thankfully, however, we are seeing more Service complaints being logged, which we believe is not due to more instances of inappropriate behaviours occurring, but because there is now more acceptance of speaking up.
It was wonderful to celebrate the progress made so far, and the foundations that have been put in place to foster change, whilst also acknowledging the work still to do. The role of the APPG is to scrutinise the MOD on improving the situation for service women and veterans, hold them to account on implementing recommendations, whilst championing women in all areas of Defence.
At BBK, we are passionate about effecting positive change: desiring to change the lives of our clients, and the law, for the better. Our involvement in APPG’s and events like these, allow us to engage with those at the heart of policy making, and crucially, raise awareness for issues that are important to our clients.