Compulsory military service for women: «A necessary provocation».


The Swiss Officers’ Society revives the issue of the representation of women in the Swiss Army - Stefano Giedemann: «If we want to achieve the goals of Vision 2030, we need a breakthrough proposal».

Compulsory military service for women: «A necessary provocation».

Compulsory military service for women: «A necessary provocation».

«Women too should serve in the military. It is about time that both sexes have the same rights and duties.» And again: «We are now convinced that the army cannot do without 50% of the full potential of society». These were the statements made by the President of the Swiss Officers’ Association (SSU) Stefan Holenstein to the «NZZ am Sonntag» at the weekend. Strong statements that not only bring the issue of the presence of women in the military back to the center of the debate, but also adds an extra piece to the political discussion started several decades ago in our country.

The pink genesis

«The request should be put in context with the decades-long discussion about the presence of women in the army,« SSU Vice President Stefano Giedemann told Corriere del Ticino. A profoundly historical discussion, whose origin begins in the post-war period, to materialise, at first, with the reform of Army XXI in the early 2000s. « Previously, the women were allowed to do little: mainly support services. In 2004, there was opening to arms.» The new «pink address» was further confirmed in 2018, «but without being translated into a significant increase in the presence of women in the army,« Giedemann adds.

Amherd’s push

The final piece of this process must be identified with the arrival of Viola Amherd at the Department of Defense. «The federal councilor is very aware of the issue and immediately wanted to make an impact.» Most recently, we recall, she established a working group within the army with the aim of increasing the presence of women, whose share currently stands at 0.9%. And it is within this group that the Swiss Officers’ Society has continued its reflections. «We have recently delivered a report to the director of the Department of Defense with some twenty points in which we propose a careful analysis of the subject. Indeed, change must be accompanied by a series of measures that facilitate the presence of women in the army.»

Objective 10%

The Department of Defence intends to increase the female quota from 0.9 to 10% by 2030. Giedemann goes on to say: « With the current premises and conditions, this target is very ambitious. In general, the Army 2030 vision envisions a military force of 120,000 people, with 12,000 embedded women. But this requires that 2 thousand women, every year, enter the educational service.» But today, the numbers speak of a minimal female quota. Which is why «something has to change. Our proposal fits exactly into this context and this vision.»

Outside Parliament

Under these conditions and given future goals, Giedemann continues, the service model needs to be revised. «Compulsory military service for women is a provocative but necessary proposal.» According to Giedemann, it is necessary to create the conditions for a public debate on the subject, and the proposal for mandatory conscription for women should be read in this sense. As some surveys conducted by the ETH Zurich have shown, Giedemann continues, the population would not be opposed in principle. «The greatest resistance today must be sought in Parliament. It is politics, in fact, that rejected the proposal to make the women’s recruitment day mandatory. Today we want to bring the debate to the public level.» Yet, we point out, the numbers today are very small. 0.9% speaks for itself. As is already the case with men, compulsory female conscription could translate into strong enrollment in community service, not recruit school. «Objectively, this argument is not out of place, but I still think it is too early to understand the possible future developments of the female conscription. The discourse has to be contextualized to an army that is changing, even at the cultural level.»

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