Chef challenges men-only Marines

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The Independent Online
A 31-year-old former army chef yesterday became the first woman to challenge the Royal Marines' men-only recruitment policy. Angela Sirdar, from Norwich, claims the Marine corps was guilty of sex discrimination when it prevented her from applying for a job as a chef. Yesterday she launched a bid for compensation against the Ministry of Defence at an industrial tribunal in Norwich.

Mrs Sirdar, whose husband, Eugene, is a former Marine, was made redundant from her job as an Army chef with 29 Commando, based at Plymouth, in early 1995. The Marines then invited a large number of redundant army chefs to apply for a transfer.

But Mrs Sirdar, who has a five-year-old daughter, Jasmin, claims she was told that she could not apply to switch to the Marines because she was a woman. She was told that the reason for the Marines' men-only policy was that Marines had to be capable of fighting. Women were only allowed to join the Marines as musicians, who would provide wartime stretcher- bearing or guard duties.

Mrs Sirdar, whose claim is backed by the Equal Opportunities Commission, is fighting her case on the grounds that the Marines do not operate the policy on a day-to-day basis. She says there are chefs serving who are not capable of being, or required to be, fighting soldiers.