February 23, 2024

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Switzerland may force women into military service

Switzerland may force women into military service

Due to a decline in its numbers at the end of the decade, the Swiss army already makes military service compulsory for women, just like for men.

Posted at 5:00 am.

Andre Duchesne

Andre Duchesne

The idea is presented in an interim report by Switzerland’s Federal Council, the seven-member governing body, made public on October 13. Final proposals will be submitted by the Union Defense, Civil Defense and Sports Department in the summer of 2023, the official document said.

According to a Swiss government analysis, the army currently has 151,299 soldiers, meeting its “real strength” objectives of 140,000 soldiers. But on the horizon of 2030, we fear that this bar will fall below.

Two phenomena illustrate the expected decrease. First, about 10,000 players leave teams each year before their scheduled date, either for medical reasons or for civil protection. Also, the obligation to serve for all ages has been reduced from 12 to 10 years, meaning more annual departures.

Currently, some countries have compulsory military service for women. This is the case in countries like Norway, Sweden and Israel.

The idea of ​​conscription, whether for men or women, has come up recently, says Stephanie Van Hladky, associate professor of political science at Queen’s University in Kingston and Canadian curator on Gender, Security and the Armed Forces. .

“After the end of the Cold War we saw a decline in conscription. But recently, especially after Russia’s invasion of Crimea [2014]”Some countries have questioned themselves again,” he says.

In Sweden, the withdrawal of conscription, including for women, is less controversial than one might think, M believes.me Van Hladky. “Because it led to a debate about fairness,” he continues. We saw it as a step, a reflection of values. »

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Change the culture

Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, director of operations and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (Ottawa office), says Israel and Norway are “very ambivalent” about imposing military service on women, citing Israel and Norway.

According to him, further refinement of coordination measures is important. “All principles focus on the strengths and limitations of both the male body and mind,” he says. Women are expected to perform at the same level when they are well aware that they are physiologically, biologically and socially different. »


A group of Norwegian soldiers was sent to Lithuania as part of the NATO action plan in 2020

A view shared by Jennifer Mathers, a lecturer in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University in Wales.

You can change the rules, but changing attitudes takes a long time. It was only last year that the Swiss Army decided to distribute women’s underwear to suit them. Everything in the army has been adapted for men: helmets, vehicles, clothes…

Jennifer Mathers is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University

Mme Mathers also believes that women in the military are moving into similar careers outside the ranks. “They go into health care, logistics, pastoral work,” he says. Sectors that echo women’s concentration in the civil sector and at home: bringing children to school, arranging purchases, paying bills. »

Very low rate

In Switzerland, women have been in the military for 80 years. They have enjoyed full military status since 1995.

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“All soldiers, regardless of gender, have the same services, and recruitment schools and units are mixed, writes Swiss Army spokesman Daniel Reist. In addition to the same level of service and the same instruction, since 2004 women have received the same personal weapon as men, and have since been able to participate in engagements abroad. »

On the other hand, they constitute only 1.4% of the troops. In Canada, the rate is 16.3% as of April 2022. In the US it is 17.2%.

However, even at this rate, cultural change occurs slowly. “Better representation of women in the armed forces will bring about changes in culture,” says Stephanie van Hladky. But for that, they need to have a certain critical mass. With 5%, 8% or 15% representation, culture cannot be expected to change overnight. We have to show leadership, political and military. »

Learn more

  • 245
    Minimum period of compulsory service in the Swiss Army for soldiers, in days. Depending on the operation, this minimum duration can go up to 865 days (Paratrooper Master Sergeants).

    Source: Duty to Serve, Swiss Ministry of Defence