A survey of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) suggests that as many as 40% of its gay and lesbian servicemembers have suffered some form of abuse relating to their sexual orientation.
The IDF has allowed openly gay servicemembers to serve since 1993 and also has strict anti-discrimination rules that cover sexual orientation. However, an Israeli Gay Youth survey based on a sample 364 gay and lesbian soldiers currently serving in the IDF or soldiers discharged over the past year suggests LGB servicemembers still face widespread verbal, physical and even sexual abuse.
According to the survey, 40 percent of the soldiers were verbally abused due to their sexual orientation and 20% claimed to have been physically or sexually assaulted.
“The IDF is known as one of the more enlightened militaries in the world which allows male and female soldiers who are not heterosexual to serve in its ranks,” the Israeli Gay Youth movement said in a statement.
“At the same time, the military needs to review the claims by these soldiers in order to better understand the climate in which they serve and how it affects their service.”
Furthermore, 45% of respondents reportedly said that homophobic remarks are frequent or very frequent in the units in which they served or currently serve, and those in combat units put the figure higher at 59%.
The study also appeared to show a fear of coming out in the IDF despite the military officially being welcoming to LGB servicemembers, with 63 percent of the sample saying they had come out in civilian life while on 32% said they had come out to fellow soldiers or their direct commander.
There is however a more positive aspect to this most recent survey. The Israeli Gay Youth movement says that when compared to the last survey carried out in 2006, certain levels of harassment have decreased.
The IDF itself has said that because the IDF did not carry out this research it cannot comment on the data. However, a spokesperson for the IDF is quoted on Haaretz.com as saying: ”We will say that any claim of abuse in the IDF is dealt with appropriately. The IDF drafts all candidates who are suitable, regardless of their sexual orientation.”