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POLITICO: The UK government has recognised a culture of homophobia in the British Army

19-7-2023 |

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologized to LGBT people who were prevented from serving in the country’s military, as a damning review found a decades-long ban had left “a stain on the illustrious history of the U.K.’s armed forces.”

Speaking in the House of Commons as a state-ordered review of the impact of the 1967-2000 ban was published, Sunak criticized “an appalling failure on the British state, decades behind the law of this land.”

“As today’s report makes clear, many endured the most horrific sexual abuse and violence, homophobic bullying and harassment, all whilst bravely serving this country,” the U.K. prime minister said. “Today, on behalf of the British state, I apologize.”

While homosexuality was partly-decriminalized in England and Wales in 1967, the British military continued to regard it as incompatible with service until the turn of the century. The report, chaired by retired judge and member of the House of Lords Terence Etherton, details the grave impact this ban had on those in military roles.

It details “shocking evidence of a culture of homophobia, and of bullying, blackmail and sexual assaults, abusive investigations into sexual orientation and sexual preference, disgraceful medical examinations, including conversion therapy, peremptory discharges, and appalling consequences in terms of mental health and wellbeing, homelessness, employment, personal relationships and financial hardship.”

Former service people gave evidence to the review. Some were left homeless and isolated after losing their military roles, with some telling the probe they continued to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their treatment.

“Some victims have died a natural death since the ban was removed,” Etherton wrote. “Others have taken their own lives. Many of those still living have attempted to die by suicide or have thought about doing so.”

And he added: “The survivors have waited for at least 23 years for acknowledgment of what they have suffered, and for justice and restitution.”