G.I. Jane: Women In The Military
When you think of the word “soldier” the first thing that pops to mind is a group of young, male “roughnecks” high on testosterone and unexpressed rage. This holds true all around the world, especially in countries that still have mandatory military service; but not always. There are some countries in which women are also called to service, with the USA being the latest addition to the list.
Women’s access to the military was one of the Obama administration’s hot topics last year. In June 2016, the Senate approved a bill which stated that women who come of age on or after January 1st, 2018, must register for Selective Service. The Selective Service System is a pool of potential recruits – ages 18 to 25 – that could be drafted in case of military necessity. The last time that the U.S. used the draft was during the Vietnam War in 1973. This bill speaks volumes about the profound role that women will have in the armed forces in the years to come.
This issue raised even more controversy when President Obama and the Pentagon announced their support for women’s inclusion in military drafts. Some politicians – like Hillary Clinton and John McCain – expressed their approval, identifying Obama’s decision as a sign of government support for gender equality in the military. On the other hand, President Donald Trump has yet to release his formal statement, although he did show his support back in August 2015 during a CNN interview.
While this bill is still under debate in the U.S., other countries already require women to serve in the military. Some of them are:
Israel is famous for its long-standing policy of mandatory military service for both men and women. There are some exemptions though, such as expecting or current mothers, as well as several exemptions on religious grounds. According to Dan Arbell, a former official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, female military service is not a controversial issue for Israelis, since for them it is a common part of society.
People may think that all soldiers are treated equally, but this wasn’t always the case. In 1994, Alice Miller was prevented from becoming a pilot on grounds of being a woman. She filed a lawsuit against the Israeli Army and won. Thanks to her efforts, women in the IDF can now serve in all combat positions.
In 2013 Norway became the first European country to approve the inclusion of women in military service drafts. The Norwegian military chiefs explained that this decision will allow the armed forces to tap into a wider pool of people with different talents. Lieutenant Colonel Pal Berglund stated that women will be subject to the same high draft policy standards as everyone else. During service, women will share equipment, training regimes, and even living quarters with their male counterparts.
All this is hardly novel for Norway. Voluntary conscription has applied to Norwegian women since the 1980s. Moreover, 4 of the last 5 Norwegian defense ministers were women, a fact which proves that women have consistently played a central role in the country’s armed forces.
Given the fact that news and information regarding the internal affairs of this country are scarce, it’s no surprise why some countries’ leaders feel threatened by North Korea’s secrecy. The fact that they also have nuclear weapons ready to launch at a dictator’s whim, doesn’t help either. In 2015, a report emerged stating that North Korea’s government started imposing mandatory military service for women. According to this report, after graduating from high school, women need to serve in the military until the age of 23. This law applies to women – ages 17 to 20. On the other hand, men already have to serve for 10 years. According to the same source, this method is meant to increase the number of troops, which have significantly dwindled due to high child mortality and low birth rates; a result of the “Arduous March” – the nationwide famine that struck North Korea in the 1990s.
Bolivia is most well known for its rich history with temples and ruins from ancient civilizations. In 2015 Bolivia made history again, being the first country to appoint a female Army General – Gina Reque Teran. Furthermore, General Teran is also the first woman to lead troops in Latin America. Bolivia has a unique military law, which allows men and women from ages 18 to 49 to be drafted in the case that the country’s military volunteer pool runs low.
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