UK armed forces ban use of sex workers abroad to stamp out 'poor behaviour'

21 July 2022, 02:59

British troops have been banned from paying for prostitutes abroad
British troops have been banned from paying for prostitutes abroad. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

British troops have been banned from paying for prostitutes abroad as part of a crackdown on "poor behaviour" in the armed forces.

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Anyone found to have bought sex while deployed outside the UK will be thrown out of the military, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

However, the rules do not apply to troops on operations in the UK, with domestic law taking precedence.

Under the defence strategy - labelled 'Zero Tolerance to Sexual Abuse' - senior personnel are also banned from having sexual relationships with junior ranks due to what is considered to be an "imbalance of power", the MoD added.

Minister for defence people Leo Docherty said the rules sent "a clear message" that "predatory behaviour" would not be tolerated.

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The new strategy aimed at stamping out "poor behaviours" comes after a string of scandals within the armed forces as well as a damning parliamentary report on sexual harassment in the military.

The MoD said it now "prohibits all sexual activity which involves the abuse of power, including buying sex whilst abroad".

It added: "The policy will ensure that every allegation will be responded to, no matter where the allegation takes place, and introduces a presumption of discharge for anyone found to be engaging in the targeted behaviours, including buying sex whilst deployed outside the UK."

Anyone convicted of an offence will be thrown out of the military and there will be a "presumption of discharge" for any person who has "behaved in a sexually unacceptable way".

The behaviour of British soldiers abroad came under renewed scrutiny a decade ago after the death of Agnes Wanjiru - a 21-year-old Kenyan sex worker whose body was dumped in a hotel's septic tank allegedly by a British soldier.

Speaking at the Farnborough airshow, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he could not immediately explain why the policy had taken so many years to implement. 

"Don't ask me, I'm the defence secretary who's now taken it over, and life's moved on," he said.

"It's a different generation. I was in the army in 1991 in Germany, and things are different.

"You know, 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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