Women in the Army

By Kathleen Ostheim, Year 13

Throughout the world, women’s ability and desire to serve in their countries military varies drastically. These are some examples of the current states. It is a great step towards equality if a country permits women’s involvement in the armed forces. Yet, simply giving women the option to join, does not ensure that women will be integrated and accepted as full members of their battalion by fellow male companions. Each country and each group will be at different stages of acceptance and integration of the female gender. Some people are still hesitant to admit that women are not always the weaker sex. Women are just as capable to take part in the military and sex should not prevent them from serving their country.

Women bring an array of positives to an army. They have different perspectives and ideas. In conflict zones, women are more likely to talk to other women than men from the military. Women are still clearly in the minority even if their numbers in the army are increasing.

People have raised concerns about more women in the military due to them experiencing sexual assault or discrimination. There have been thousands of accounts of raped women in the army. Some men argue that women in the army will neglect their traditional roles as caregivers, mothers, and wives. Yet, it should be said that in the 21st-century women should have the right to choose which life they want to live. This may involve the army and a family or something completely different.

 

Countries and their approach to women in the army

In the USA, the army has fully integrated women into all military positions in 2017. 174,000 women are serving the army. They have come a long way since the civil war between the union and the confederates over 400 women disguised themselves as men to enter the army.

In Denmark, women have played an integral role in the army since the 20th century. In 1978 they gained the right to take part in every sector of the army. Around 5% of the Danish army consists of females, some of them serving in Afghanistan. Recruiting has been low in recent years.

In Finland, the ratio of women to men is 500 to 30,000 who take part in the voluntary or obligatory conscription. Women get 45 days to leave the army without consequences in case they change their mind about military service. They also get 0.4 euros more than the men to buy sanitary items. Non – combat duties in the Finnish defence forces, as well as all Finnish foreign operations, are open to women.

In France, women gradually joined the military. In the 1800s, their involvement was limited to cooking for the soldiers. These female cooking teams were known as Cantinieres. In 1914 the responsibilities extended to the Service de Sante des Armees. Women became part of the medical team. As of 1939 women were allowed to partake in all service branches. Yet, they cannot take part in field conflicts or submarines of their countries navy.

The Bundeswehr as it is now known in Germany only exists since 1955. Initially, they were hesitant to integrate women. This lead to them having one of the most conservative gender policies of the NATO countries. Only in 1996 when a woman went to court, in an attempt to extend women’s fields to the armed forces women got the right to equality. There are no longer restrictions based on sex in the army. Now the percentage of women in the army is between 9 to 15%. They are also deployed to take part in foreign missions.

Italy is the last country of the NATO to permit women to join their military. They believed that due to men and women’s different physiques, women were inadequate in the army. Now women are no longer only nurses in the army but can take part in all branches of the military services.

Women in Norway served during WW2 and as of 1938, they had access to any sector the army had to offer. they were the first army to allow their women to serve on their submarine ships. Since 2016 Norway has implemented mandatory military service for both sexes. So every person born 1997 or later aged 19 to 44 must serve in the national military scheme. The head of the Royal Norwegian force of 2017 is female.  And 23% of its military are women. In Norway, men and women share the same dorms. The only separated place they have is the shower.

Women are not allowed in combat roles in Russia but they do makeup 10% of its army. They even have contests known as miss Russian army beauty. Serbia, on the other hand, is an exclusively male-dominated army.

The United Kingdom allows women to take part in its military service yet it does not permit women’s direct contact with the “ enemy”. All roles in the armed force whose primary duty is to kill the enemy are out of bounds for women. Women have been part of Britain’s military since the medieval age.