We posted on January 28th that a new report from Germany notes that 55% of women in the German armed forces have been sexually harassed, and of these a full 27% were victims of sexual assault or “unwanted sexually motivated physical contact.”

Now comes word of a similar report from the UK  — the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey, in which the Guardian reports that in 2013, 10% of military personnel reported being a victim of “discrimination, harassment or bullying in a service environment.”

Moreover, a new report from Israel has similar statistics.  Brigadier-General Rachel Tevet-Wiesel reported to a Knesset committee that there has been an increase in reported sexual harassment over 2012 by both male and female soldiers; one of eight women in the military suffered sexual abuse in 2013; half of the reported incidents involved physical harassment and 4% “ended in rape.”   Moreover, a majority of women subject to sexual misconduct have never reported the issue.

The Jerusalem Post quoted the General as saying that “We consider the non-dramatic rise in the number of reports of sexual harassment a result of greater awareness on the part of soldiers and commanders.”

Is the Chain of Command Hindering The Elimination of Sexual Harassment?

In both the UK and Israel there appear to be increased calls for “an urgent overhaul into the way the armed forces deal with sexual assaults and rape complaints,” as a senior Labour MP in the UK put it.  She reportedly said that “a new independent armed forces ombudsman was needed to properly investigate such complaints. Installing an ombudsman would allow service personnel to resolve grievances outside the chain of command and give them increased confidence to speak out (emphasis added).”  Sounds like some calls for new legislation in the US.

The Chairwoman  of the Israeli Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women was reportedly similarly critical of the “lax policies in senior officers guilty of harassment” and said that “Maybe we should take the judicial system out of the army?”

She seems to be saying what one of our readers said in commenting in our blog of May 30, 2013  about our question whether the chain of command in the US military has perpetuated the problem of sexual harassment:

“I believe asking the military chain of command to police itself with regard to sexual assaults is just as ridiculous as a CPA firm performing its own audit. There has to be an unbiased third party and/or panel that can investigate and prosecute so there is no internal sphere of influence.  It’s only fair, for someone who volunteers to serve for our country, that they receive the same personal safety rights that any U.S. citizen receives! It’s just plain sad that military personnel would turn on each other in the first place, especially when they are supposed to have each others’ backs.”

A lot more needs to be said about this, especially in light of Senator Gillibrand’s bill which deals with such issues.  Stay tuned for further blog posts.

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The Israeli Knesset’s Ministerial Law Committee approved a bill and sent it to the full Knesset which, if it passes, which is likely,  would prohibit employment discrimination (and discrimination in, among other things, housing, medical care, and education) on the basis of gender or sexual preference.

In fact, the law would require all laws against discrimination to include such a ban on gender or sexual preference discrimination.

According to the bill’s sponsor, it is “a correction that is necessary in order to prevent clear cases of discrimination. This law has been missing in our legal system, and adding it will ensure that our legal system is fair and just to all.”

This leaves the US in an-ever shrinking number of Western countries that have not banned such discrimination.

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Noam Barkan of Ynet News has reported that Israeli Economy Ministry’s EEOC has released the past year’s statistics relating to discrimination charges filed with it. 14256290_s

Workplace sexual harassment complaints increased by 45%; gender discrimination complaints increased by 35%, complaints; religious discrimination complaints increased by 30%; and pregnancy discrimination complaints increased by 26%.

Barkan quoted the EEOC Commissioner Attorney as saying that “Despite the labor market’s progress and the rise in employers’ awareness, there are still employers who fail to meet the law’s requirements, and the causes for that must be dealt with – both through PR efforts and deterrence.”

The article gives a more detailed breakdown for those who want to dig deeper.

Two government studies conducted in conjunction with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem have found that “a job applicant with an Ashkenazi-sounding name has a 34 percent higher chance of being hired by an employer than a person with a Sephardi-sounding name applying for the same position. .. [and also that] over 22% of employers openly stated that they actively discriminate against applicants with Arab-sounding names.”

The Times of Israel, which reported these studies, has also just reported on a court decision which illustrates this situation.  A man with a Sephardi-sounding last name, Michel Malka, who applied to the Israel Aerospace Industries for a paramedic position was refused hiring —  the employer’s rep, when he received the resume, allegedly “responded by making a derogatory comment regarding Malka’s ethnicity, calling him an “ars.”

When he re-applied two months later having changed the name on his resume to Meir Malkiely, “a more generic-sounding Israeli name,” he received a call a few minutes later from the same individual who had earlier rejected him, who “enthusiastically explained about the position and asked him to begin work at IAI as soon as possible.”

The Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court found the rep guilty of unlawful discrimination, stating that his “instinctive initial response was in itself sufficient to incriminate him.  The court added that the fact that [he] accepted Malka’s application after the name change served as further evidence of racial discrimination,” and issued an award in his favor of “NIS 50,000 ($14,000) to reimburse him for his grief.

 

The Israeli Defense Forces (“IDF”) chief of staff’s advisor on Women’s Affairs, Brig. Gen. Racheli Tevet-Weisel, has reported 2012 statistics showing approximately 500 complaints from soldiers of sexual harassment or assault, 10% of them from male soldiers. 

 

A story in Israel News by Yoav Zitun notes that Gen. Tevet-Weisel stated that “Our emphasis this year is on prevention … we are investing in heavy sentencing and in an informational campaign." Further she said that the IDF was installing billboards about sexual harassment and will release a film on social networks.

 

 

In another story, the Jerusalem Post reports that a number of female employees of the Israeli NTA – Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd. – have filed sexual harassment police complaints against the chairman, Michael Ratzon, a former Likud deputy minister. One woman complained of a physical assault. 

 

 

Ratzon has responded that the allegations are part of a "premeditated and organized attack that is completely unfounded, meant only to prevent the extension of my service at my current position."