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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Is the US Military ready to accommodate Breastfeeding Soldiers?

SUMMARY: In the US, the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide a reasonable break-time for nursing mothers and a private place for mothers to pump, but not in the military workplace. Following a long history of ignoring or being afraid of women’s bodies, the US Army has forced many servicewomen shared stories of pumping in the bathroom or their car, as public breastfeeding was restricted but no other facilities were available. Representative Niki Tsongas (Democrat of Massachusetts) is a member of the Armed Services Committee, recently sponsored a provision in a defense bill that would require the Army to establish a comprehensive policy toward breastfeeding. Her amendment to the bill, H.R. 1735, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, specifies, ‘Restrooms should not be considered an appropriate location.’ The Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy and Coast Guard have different regulations about time of pumping breaks but all require private rooms, it’s time the Army comes on board. Tsongas claims, ‘There are many ways in which the services are not recognising the ever growing diversity of their members.’ There is an insidious and pernicious idea that women in the military who have children are ‘weak,’ which perpetuates the idea that ‘male soldiers are allowed to have families, but female soldiers are not.’

SOURCE: Emily Greenhouse, May 20 2015, ‘Is the U.S. Military ready to Accommodate breastfeeding soldiers?’ Bloomberg Politics, http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-05-20/is-the-u-s-military-ready-to-accommodate-breastfeeding-soldiers-

Center for Military Readiness Ignores Research and Begs Congress to Roll Back Gains on Integrating Women Into Combat Roles

SUMMARY: Defying all logic, former top military leaders are asking Congress to exercise its oversight over the integration of women into combat. The Center for Military Readiness, a conservative think tank that opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and has railed against the integration of women into combat roles for years, wrote  a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees containing concerns from former military officials that women in combat will adversely effect combat readiness and lower standards. The letter also asked the committee members to review all research findings from the Marine Corps and Army Ranger experiments before implementing any policies that permit women in combat. The letter asking lawmakers to look closely at problems with gender integration is signed by nearly 100 supporters, including Gen. Harry Shelton, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; Gen. Walter Boomer, the former assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; and Adm. Thomas Hayward, the former chief of naval operations.

SOURCE: Jacqueline Klimas, May 21 2015, ‘Former military leaders ask for better Congressional oversight of women in combat,’ Washington Times, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/21/ex-military-leaders-better-oversight-women-combat/

Canadian Royal Military College Cadets Disgrace Themselves and the CDF with Outdated (and illegal) Attitudes About Rape

SUMMARY: Julia Lalonde presented a sexual-assault prevention lecture at the Royal Military College, Canada, to a resistant and hostile audience. Lalonde has spear-headed a campaign called, Draw-The-Line.ca, which teaches that consent cannot be given when someone is incapacited, for example when intoxicated. Several cadets during the session suggested that, ‘women who drink too much are enabling their own rape.’ The cadets actively ignored, whistled and laughed at Lalonde, as one cadet said, ‘all respect for the presenter was lost and she struggled to carry on with the presentation.’ Moreover, the institution’s response has demonstrated the pervasive and pernicious culture that ignores responsibility for sexual misconduct. When Lalonde complained about the experience on twitter, there was a massive backlash from cadets that participated in the session. After officially complaining to RMC, the school’s commandant Brigadier-General Al Meinzinger only apologized after five months, further stating that disciplinary action could not be taken on any individual cadets as they could not be identified.

SOURCE: James Cudmore, May 22 2015, ‘Royal Military College cadets struggled with questions of sexual consent: Educator,’ CBC News, http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/royal-military-college-cadets-struggled-with-questions-of-sexual-consent-educator-1.3083831

US Air Force testing gender-neutral standards

SUMMARY: The Air Force began placing women in combat aircraft in 1993. The Air Force currently has more than 99 per cent of positions open to women. Only Special Tactics, Combat Control, Special Operations Weahth, Combat Rescue, Pararescue and Tactical Air Control positions are left to be opened to women. These six positions will open 4,350 jobs across the total force of 600,000 airmen. Dr Neal Baumgartner is heading the three-part study to develop new standards for testing eligibility for these positions. The study examines the current standards at joint base San Antonio-Lackland to determine the gender-neutral standards according to occupational relevance. Once the study is completed, Dr. Baumgartner will submit the results to the Air Force at the end of July.

SOURCE: Bailey McGowan, May 23 2015, ‘Air Force testing gender-neutral standards in San Antonio, Air Force Times, http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2015/05/23/air-force-testing-gender-neutral-standards-in-san-antonio/27848207/

New Joint Chiefs of Staff Dunford to determine women in combat policy

SUMMARY: New Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Marine General Joseph Dunford, will be in charge of the committee making the final decision about women in combat, once he is sworn in during October 2015. Dunford, who has not revealed a particularly strong position on the matter of women in combat, will replace current chairman Army General Martin E. Dempsey, who is known for being an ‘enthusiastic supporter of integrating women into all units.’ All military branches must provide their recommendations by September so that by January 2016 the Pentagon can determine whether there will be any units exempt from the policy to open up positions to women. Interestingly Dunford is the Marine Commandant, who has a major role in deciding individual combat standards, and will be submitting a recommendation to the Pentagon for the Marine Corps.

SOURCE: Rowan Scarborough, May 10 2015, ‘ New Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford to make call on women in combat,’ Washington Times, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/10/joseph-dunford-new-joint-chiefs-of-staff-chairman-/

Did the ADF Loose its Biggest Advocate of Women’s Rights When David Morrison Retired this Week?

SUMMARY: Lieutenant General David Morrison, the outgoing Chief of the Australian Army talks with Leigh Sales about his career, the military’s mission against Islamic state, mental health, women’s rights and recruitment. Morrison is perhaps best known for his 2013 ‘Zero Tolerance Speech.’ Here are just a few highlights from the interview:


  • When Sales asked whether the Defence Force was reflective of contemporary society, Morrison emphatically replied ‘No.’ He cites the fact that only 12% of the Army workforce are female, which is a ‘lousy use of the talent on offer in 51% of Australia’s population, women.’ Morrison goes on to discuss underrepresentation of Indigenous and other ethnic groups.

Women in the Military

  • Morrison cites achievements for changing the culture around women in the military, such as 25% female Army cadets at ADFA and 20% female cadets at the Royal Military College and the ‘best maternity leave policy… anywhere in the world.’ He specifically mentions the Army’s efforts to ‘get to the heart of systemic issues around culture and to be a better organisation.’
  • When the Prime Minister asked Morrison to stay on as Chief of Army for another year, Abbott apparently referenced the work relating to ‘our culture and our treatment of women.’

SOURCE: Leigh Sales, May 11 2015, ‘”Create the society you want to live in” urges Chief of Army,’ ABC Radio Australia, http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2015-05-11/create-the-society-you-want-to-live-in-urges-chief-of-army/1446244

Victims of Sexual Assault Face Limited Legal Action and Persistent Sexism at Military Academies

SUMMARY: At all three military academies (West Point, Naval Academy and Air Force Academy), sexual assault perpetrators have less chance of prosecution and an overall culture of misogyny looms large. According to a resent article, the following is a West Point initiation chant: ‘I wish that all the ladies were holes in the road and I was a dump truck. I’d fill ’em with my load.” Ashley Anderson and Elizabeth Deutsch are student members of a legal clinic at Yale Law School, assisting the Service Women’s Action Network mount legal action against these academies. Military academies are not bound by the same laws as civilian colleges and excluded from the legislative complaint mechanisms, because Congress exempted service academies from Title IX in 1972. Title IX requires all state-funded schools to eliminate sex discrimination and therefore protects civilian students, as they can file complaints with the Department of Education for discriminatory practices, including mishandling sexual misconduct. Conversely, students on military campuses can only file individual complaints of sexual misconduct, but the investigation and disciplinary action (if any at all) are contained within the chain of command. Anderson and Deutsch call on President Obama to act, in his capacity as commander in chief, to provide legal protection and oversight into military academies and their handling of sexual misconduct.

SOURCE: Ashley Anderson and Elizabeth Deutsch, May 12 2015, ‘Stop Assaults on Military Campuses,’ New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/12/opinion/stop-assaults-on-military-campuses.html?_r=0

Ongoing Efforts to Provide Justice to Survivors of Japan’s ‘Comfort Women’ System

SUMMARY: The survivors of the ‘comfort women’ system – girls and women taken by Imperial Japanese Army and forced into sexual slavery in military brothels, before and during WWII – first gained public attention during the 1990s when the Japanese government issued a brief apology in 1993. The Japanese government has not acknowledged the criminal nature of this occurrence, and has not made restitutions to these women. The obligation of states to “provide those who claim to be victims of a human rights or humanitarian law violation with equal and effective access to justice … irrespective of who may ultimately be the bearer of responsibility for the violation” is not easily enforceable by members of the international community. The international community did however respond with the creation of the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal from 8 December – 10 December 2000. The tribunal interviewed women, conducted research into the comfort women system and a legal trial. The findings suggest between 100,000 and 200,000 women were placed in these brothels, and the majority were ‘girls’ (less than 18 years old). In addition to being repeatedly raped, the women were subjected to other forms of torture, and denied any liberty of movement. Many women felt unable to return to their families, and silenced by their traumatic experiences, leaving serious psychological and physical health problems. While the tribunal findings have influenced social understandings of the comfort women, legal and institutional ‘justice’ has not been executed. These women are still waiting for formal compensation and recognition.

SOURCE: Ustina Dolgopol, May 12 2015, ‘ Searching for justice: the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal,’ Open Democracy, https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/ustinia-dolgopol/searching-for-justice-tokyo-women’s-tribunal

US Navy proposes extending maternity leave and offering women combat roles

SUMMARY: Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has proposed opening all combat roles to women and doubling the period of paid maternity leave to 12 weeks, in an effort to retain and recruit more female Marines. Mabus said, “We need more women in the navy and marine corps. Not simply to have more women but because a more diverse force is a stronger force.” Within the same proposal, Mabus suggests extending child-care hours by 2 hours in both the morning and evening and up to 400 placements for Marines to take up to 3 years off to pursue education, raising a family or working in the private sector. For each year taken off, a Marine will have to serve two. Some of these initiatives merely require Mabus’ approval, while others such as extended maternity leave are subject to congressional approval.

SOURCE: Alan Yuhas, May 14 2015, ‘US Navy plans to offer women combat roles and extended maternity leave,’ The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/13/us-navy-women-combat-maternity-leave  

After Decades of Serving, Will Women Finally Get Boots that Fit?

SUMMARY: Congress presses US armed forces to design special women’s combat boots, as studies show women are more susceptible to stress fractures from marching and training. Robert Maginnis, a retired Army infantry officer and author of Deadly Consequences, which argues against women in ground combat, said it is possible that women’s boots could cut down on injuries overall, but he doubts their ability to mediate the issue of stride length during long marches. The provision of gender suitable gear will also likely avoid future liability and litigation (in 2013 three female recruits in Britain claimed that being forced to march like men resulted in spinal injuries and pelvic fractures, and were each awarded $162,000).

SOURCE: Rowan Scarborough, May 14 2015, ‘Military pressed to design line of women-friendly combat boots by Congress,’ The Washington Times, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/14/military-pressed-to-design-line-of-women-friendly-/