British soldiers have been barred from visiting strip and lap dancing clubs in a new sexual abuse rule. The Zero Tolerance to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse mandate was originally designed to prevent the “aid worker-style” sexual abuse of vulnerable women in developing nations.
It has forbidden all members of the armed forces from any sort of ”transactional sex” using sex workers abroad. But senior Army officers fear it has gone too far by also incorporating legally-sanctioned clubs in mainland Europe where British troops are deployed, such as Germany and the Baltic.
The Express reported that they had warned that it could severely affect retention and recruitment, with one senior officer going so far as to suggest the MoD has laid itself open to legal challenges. Until now, permission to visit such premises was left to individual unit commanders.
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Seven years ago British soldiers attending a Nato exercise in Estonia were given guides which recommended the best clubs to visit. The "Tallinn guide for friendly forces” informed that "all strip clubs offer private rooms for individual dances", and that "the average level of rolling tips to girls is 5 to 20 euros". They were also advised "to use cash in such places”.
The policy is designed to target sexual activity which involves British service personnel abusing their position of power while on duty overseas. Those deemed to have been taking part face being discharged.
“Sexual exploitation and Abuse (SEA) runs contrary to the values and standards of defence and can undermine our credibility and effectiveness, and impact operational successes,” wrote Lieutenant General James Swift, Chief of Defence People Functional Owner for Defence People.
"Defence people must not cause harm to populations we engage with in the course of our duties. “
In 2018 it emerged that more than 120 UK aid workers were under investigation for the sexual abuse of vulnerable women abroad. Last year it emerged that 83 aid workers, some with the World Health Organisation, were involved in similar activities while tackling the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The MoD’s inclusivity drive to attract more female soldiers, sailors and aviators and so-called "Generation Z" recruits has seen a move away from “innocent laddish behaviour”.
Speaking recently, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “We want more and more women to be in our forces, we have to bear in mind all that means in different environments, and we have to set parameters for those environments and be very clear what is acceptable.”
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Col Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan said:“I do think it’s right that the MoD take steps to prevent exploitation of vulnerable people. Apart from the moral aspect, there’s the repetitional aspect too. But soldiers are often in stressful conditions and they do need to let off steam and relax. A balance needs to be struck."
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