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Israel's female soldiers adhere to 'bra schedule' to avoid arousing men

Female soldiers are told it's their fault if men harass them [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 July, 2018

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Female Israeli soldiers have been excluded from their military exercises and are being pressured to adhere to an increase in 'modesty codes'.
Female Israeli soldiers have complained of being subjected to extra “modesty rules” which ban them from wearing white shirts at training bases and smoking around men to prevent them being subjected to “womanly temptation” on duty.

A report by Israel’s Women’s Network showed how women in the Israeli army are being made to comply with rules that restrict the way they dress, their army training and their interaction with male colleagues, as the influence of more religious Jews in the army grows.

The increase in such modesty codes has made women feel less comfortable training and has put them at a higher risk of sexual harassment, the report said.

“The dozens of testimonies that have reached us at the hotline for female soldiers in the past year and a half attest to what we’ve known for a long time. Commanders in the field deviate from the army’s orders and enforce bizarre modesty rules on the female soldiers, and prevent them from doing their jobs”, managing director of the Israel Women’s Network, Michal Gera Margaliot said.

Designated no-bra time

Female soldiers complained that were that they are not allowed to take off their bras for as long as they are awake.

“Throughout my basic training and my course, they forced me and my friends to have a bra under our uniforms,” one female soldier, whose name has been withheld said in the report.

The women were still not allowed to remove their bras, even within minutes before preparing for bed.

“There are two minutes between the inspection at the end of the pre-sleep hour and lights out,” she said. “If we tried to remove our bras even then, we were caught and given a warning,” which could become a punishment.

“The only ‘legal’ option was to take off your bra lying down in bed after lights out”, she added.

The ban on removing bras was placed to stop male soldiers from becoming “aroused” by their female counterparts.

At the same base, shorts above the knee and white shirts were banned in calisthenics classes because they were deemed too immodest.

The mother of a soldier told Israel Women’s Network that the clothing were banned because it places the blame on the woman should a male soldier be aroused.

Cases of sexual harassment against women being shrugged off were also recorded on grounds that the women should have been more careful.

No free-mixing

Among the religious soldiers in the army, female counterparts are considered a burden and communication is kept to a bare minimum. Should religious soldiers speak to women, it is usually to dictate their immodest dress.

At one base, the deputy company sergeant from the ultra-Orthodox wing of the religious-Zionist community, “refused to speak with, look at or work with the female company clerk,” according to his aide.

A female physical training instructor was effectively kicked out of her role when commanders were not comfortable with her presence.

“I was supposed to lead all the force’s exercises but slowly I realised that I wasn’t wanted there, that they actually didn’t need me because the commanders preferred to lead the exercises themselves,” the unnamed instructor told Haaretz.

The commanders wanted to lead the exercises out of fear of an upheaval by religious soldiers.

Instead, she was given more domestic roles.

“In practice, I didn’t do my job but rather other nonsense like guard duty and kitchen duty. It’s unreasonable,” she added.

“The minute you see religious soldiers, you’re deterred. They once told us to put pants on over our tights if there were a lot of religious guys in the unit, but few women do. They simply skip the exercise.”

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