Skype Sex Scandal Prompts Soul-Searching For Australian Military

The Times headline reads, "Scandals May End Sexism In Australian Military." That's a rather sweepingly optimistic suggestion, but it's clear that some major rethinking is going on there, and that the result may be combat roles being opened up to women.

The biggest "scandal" has been the case of "Kate," a first-year female cadet at the Australian Defense Force Academy who learned from investigators that the fellow student she had sex with had livestreamed it via Skype to his friends. When she learned they would be brought up on minor charges, she called the press, and she says that after the story ran, a senior official suggested she apologize to her fellow students "for bringing the division into disrepute by going to the media."

According to The Australian, the "apology" was allegedly called off before it started, because "one cadet yelled out 'name and shame the dirty slut.' Other cadets took up the cry, yelling 'Do it!' The officer present cancelled Kate's planned address, fearing the cadets' mood was too volatile." The Defense Ministry has denied that Kate was forced to apologize. It did, however, criticize the academy for deciding to try Kate on previous offenses of being AWOL and drinking — Defense Minister Stephen Smith called it "stupid in fact and in law."

She has taken leave, while the men involved in the incident remain at the academy.

Separately, a man has come forward about beatings and sexual assault he endured in the 1970s, and there may be further grounds for a class action lawsuit. "The Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia, which is supporting the ex-recruit, says at least 10 other former servicemen have filed complaints of sexual, physical and psychological abuse from the 1970s and 80s since he came forward." More recently, a Facebook page devoted to outing and bullying gay servicemembers — who are free to serve openly in Australia — has been another cause for serious concern.

Australia has a sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, who was asked to issue a review of the culture in the military, particularly as it related to women, alcohol, and social media. (Now there's a lineup for you.) It also has a female prime minister, Julia Gillard, who helped fast-track opening up combat roles to qualified women at the same time that the inquiry was announced. According to Australia's top military official, "93 percent of positions are currently open to women. However, combat roles in infantry, artillery, engineering, airfield defense and special operations units, as well as work as clearance divers in the navy, are still out of bounds."

Scandals May End Sexism In Australian Military [NYT]
Australian Military Faces Mass Abuse Lawsuit [AFP]
Sex, Skype And Ridicule [The Age]
Failed By The System: The Cadet's True Story [The Australian]