Written evidence submitted by Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
Women in the Armed Forces: From Recruitment to Civilian Life
Sexual harassment and assault: Youngest face highest risk
Safety: Violence during training
7.1. 60 formal complaints by recruits or their parents alleging violent behaviour by instructors at the Army Foundation College (Harrogate) since 2014,[ix] of which 10 concern incidents since 2017;[x]
7.2. The sexual assault and beasting of four recruits by other recruits at the Army Foundation College in May 2012;[xi]
7.3. Five recorded incidents of violence by instructors (battery and ill-treatment) at the Army Foundation College between 2008 and 2013;[xii] and
7.4. 16 recorded instances of assault at the former Army Technical Foundation College (Winchester), of which two concern violence by instructors against recruits, between 2008 and 2013.[xiii]
7.5. As noted above, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by six soldiers at an army base in 2019.[xiv]
Compounding factors: Restrictive terms of service and limited access to remedies
9.1. Recruits have no right to leave the armed forces in the first six weeks and thereafter may only leave subject to a notice period of up to three months.[xv]
9.2. Once they turn 18, recruits have no right to leave for a period measured in years (e.g. not until age 22 in the case of the army).[xvi]
9.3. Whereas girls and women who face harassment in the civilian workplace have the option of leaving their job at will, those in the armed forces have no right to do the same.
10.1. The Service Complaints Ombudsperson told the Defence Committee in 2020 that she was ‘surprised that we do not get more [complaints from under-18s]’ and made clear that the system is rarely used by the age group.[xvii]
10.2. Despite 60 recorded complaints of violence by staff at the Army Foundation College between 2014 and 2020, fewer than five Service Complaints were made by recruits at the base in the same period.[xviii]
Socio-economic outcomes: Impact of high trainee attrition on young recruits
11.1. 30 percent of army recruits under 18 leave or are dismissed before they complete their training, which leaves them immediately out of education and employment.[xix]
11.2. The army does not track the destinations of recruits who leave during training.[xx]
Girls in the armed forces: A rights-based perspective
[i] As of October 2020, 210 armed forces personnel were girls aged under 18. MoD, Biannual Diversity Statistics, 2020, https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-armed-forces-biannual-diversity-statistics-2020, Table 3.
[ii] British army, Sexual harassment report 2018, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/army-sexual-harassment-report-and-action-plan-2018, p. 5
[iii] Ibid., p. 35.
[iv] Ibid., p. 35.
[v] Ibid., p. 35.
[vi] As of October 2020, there were 150 girls aged under 18 in the army. MoD, Biannual diversity statistics, 2020, op cit.
[vii] Air Chief Marshal M Wigston, ‘Wigston review into inappropriate behaviours’, 2019, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wigston-review-into-inappropriate-behaviours, pp. 18–19.
[viii] Dominic Nicholls, ‘Ministry of Defence launches inquiry into sex abuse and inappropriate behaviour following spate of incidents’, Telegraph, 10 April 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/10/ministry-defence-launches-inquiry-sex-abuse-inappropriate-behaviour/.
[ix] Answer to Parliamentary Question no. 109376, 30 October 2020, https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-10-30/109376.
[x] Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, ref. FOI2020/09410, 20 August 2020.
[xi] Hansard: HC Deb, 10 June 2013, c4W.
[xii] Hansard: HC Deb, 2 December 2013, c495W.
[xiv] Dominic Nicholls, ‘Ministry of Defence launches inquiry into sex abuse and inappropriate behaviour following spate of incidents’, Telegraph, 10 April 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/10/ministry-defence-launches-inquiry-sex-abuse-inappropriate-behaviour/.
[xv] The Army Terms of Service Regulations 2007 (as amended).
[xvii] Defence Committee, Oral evidence: Work of the Service Complaints Ombudsman, HC 881 , Q59-62.
[xviii] Ministry of Defence, Response to Written Question: Army Foundation College: Abuse and Violence (UIN 103539), 14 October 2020, https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-10-14/103539.
[xix] In the three-year period 2015–16 to 2017–18, the army enlisted 5,280 recruits aged under 18, of whom 1,580 (30.0%) dropped out before completing their Phase 2 training. MoD, Biannual diversity statistics, 2020, op cit; MoD, Army: Recruitment - Written question – 103588, 14 October 2020, https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-10-14/103588.
[xx] Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, ref. FOI2020/07026, 10 August 2020, https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/671628/response/1614867/attach/4/20200708%20FOI07026%20Final%20Response.pdf.
[xxi] CRC Article 3.
[xxii] CRC Article 19.
[xxiii] Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (CRC/C/GBR/CO/5), 2016, pp. 23-24.
[xxiv] The UK Children’s Commissioners, Report of the Children’s Commissioners of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, December 2020, https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/cco-uncrc-report.pdf, pp. 17–18.
[xxv] Joint Committee on Human Rights, Children’s rights, 2009. This is the Committee’s most recent inquiry into children’s rights.
[xxvi] Reem Abu-Hayyeh & Guddi Singh, ‘Adverse health effects of recruiting child soldiers’, BMJ Paediatrics Open, 3(1), https://bmjpaedsopen.bmj.com/content/3/1/e000325.
[xxvii] Trades Union Congress, ‘UK Compliance with major ILO Conventions 2019’, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/rwvayho; Trades Union Congress and Child Rights International Network, ‘Annex 3: Armed Forces Recruitment and Convention 182’, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/vry9n2h; see also open letter from Child Soldiers International et al. to the Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, 23 May 2016, which was signed by the National Union of Teachers, https://tinyurl.com/rcnphc2.
[xxviii] For example, see Cdr (rt.) Paul Branscombe, letter to Child Soldiers International, 2015, cited by Lord Judd, 27 April 2016, https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2016-04-27c.1203.2; Maj Gen (rt.) Tim Cross, cited in Child Soldiers International, Solders at 16: Sifting fact from fiction, https://tinyurl.com/soldiersat16.
[xxix] For sources and detail, see the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, Child Soldiers World Index, 2021, https://childsoldiersworldindex.org.