Saturday, 30 March, 2002, 02:26 GMT
Women soldiers 'face frontline ban'
Female soldiers will not be allowed to fight in the frontline after a study found they were not physically capable, it has been reported.
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon will make the announcement in the next fortnight, according to the Independent newspaper.
Many ministers and activists want women soldiers to be eligible for frontline duty, with others believing the current ban breaches the Human Rights Act.
But a Ministry of Defence report, entitled Combat Effectiveness Gender Study, has found fewer than 2% of female soldiers are as fit as the average male soldier, the newspaper says.
The study also suggests women are up to eight times more likely to be injured.
'Barred from units'
The MoD is already facing a number of compensation claims from women who were injured during "unisex" basic training, introduced four years ago.
The paper says Mr Hoon's decision would mean women could keep serving in units in wartime as long as they did not risk close combat.
This will bar them from special forces, commando units and armoured regiments.
The Independent says the report was based on an "exhaustive" series of tests.
Soldiers under 30 had to carry 20kg of equipment and their rifle while running a mile and a half in 15 minutes, as well as carrying a colleague for 50 yards.
Not one of the female soldiers were able to complete this task, the newspaper reports.