The gender revolution that has girls playing football and their mothers running corporations hit a speed bump this week when a woman intelligence officer was killed, along with three other reserve members of the Special Air Service, while on a secret counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan. The groups’ armoured vehicles were hit by a roadside bomb.
The death of Sarah Bryant, 26 and married two years ago to a fellow intelligence officer, has raised questions about Britain’s increasing use of women on the front line of war. Soldiers are now routinely selected for operations regardless of their gender. About a fifth of the 8000 British service personnel in Afghanistan are women, even though they make up just a tenth of total army numbers. Army rules forbid the deployment of women in operations where they would be expected to “close with and kill the enemy”, but such traditional definitions of front-line warfare don’t apply to conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We now have an asymmetric battlefield,” said Major Bruce Spencer. The front line could be right outside the camp gates or 50 miles away. We select people on the basis of what they can do, not on the basis of their gender. Women are part of the full panoply of the Armed Forces. The risks that they take are the same as anybody else, and they understand the risks.” A Tory MP and former soldier told the Times, “I don’t necessarily like it very much. But she signed up.” ~ The Times (UK), June 19