The United Nations has placed strict gender quotas on a British Army peacekeeping deployment to Mali in west Africa, demanding more females are sent under the auspices of a special bureaucratic directive.
At least 250 soldiers are expected to join the U.N. peacekeeping force helping France to contain the deadly Islamist jihadi threat in the disputed Sahel region, the Daily Express reports.
The call for more female UK soldiers to be included is part of a wider set of directives drafted by the U.N. that mandates strict quotas for female personnel in the name of equal opportunity.
Under Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy targets, 15 percent of military observers and staff officers must be women by next year, while the figure for female “boots on the ground” is 7.5 percent.
It means the British Army will have to field at least 18 female soldiers in order to comply during the Mali deployment.
Senior planners involved with preparing for the mission expressed their fury.
“The British Army embraces gender equality. We feel it’s the right thing, and a good thing,” one senior officer told the newspaper.
“But equality cuts both ways. This is about our ability, as planners, to choose the most appropriate soldiers for the task at hand, be they men or women.
“It’s true that we are joining a U.N. peacekeeping operation, and not France’s parallel mission. However, we anticipate that this will be a highly kinetic operation.”
The officer questioned whether bureaucrats sitting in their offices in the U.N. building in New York rather than being out in the field have any notion of the absurdity of the request.
“Frankly, to be forced to comply with a tick-boxing request which doesn’t address the immediate realities of the challenges we face is ludicrous.”
The United Nations has 13,000 peacekeepers in Mali, which ranks among its biggest and costliest missions. France has 4,000 troops serving across the Sahel region in five countries (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad) in Operation Barkhane, launched in 2014.
Since 2013, at least 44 French soldiers have died in the mission that has created little public debate in France.