Yesterday the Christian Science Monitor reported (“Equality may mean Army service in Sweden“) that Sweden is considering extending its military draft to women. Israel is currently the only nation in the world that drafts women as well a men (although women are not drafted into combat positions).
Rather than maintain a standing professional army, as nations such as the United States does, Sweden tests all 18-year old men for military aptitude and then requires about 40 percent of them to undergo military training. After the training the men are part of the nation’s military reserve until age 47. Women can choose to join the military as well, but it is not required.
According to the Monitor, men in countries with military drafts are beginning to file lawsuits against military drafts that exclude women. In Germany, for example, men have filed a sex discrimination suit against that nation’s military policy. As a National Organization for Women spokesperson tells the newspaper, the United States’ male-only draft registration requirement would almost certainly be found unconstitutional by today’s Supreme Court.
Ironically, although Sweden is probably at the vanguard of governments creating programs to enforce sexual equality, many of them not very well thought out, most women are definitely not in favor of a gender-neutral draft. According to the Monitor, 70 percent of Swedish women oppose the measure. Apparently many women in Sweden share the view that military service is a uniquely masculine role.
I believe military drafts are immoral, in general, but military drafts that do exist should be gender neutral. Morever, gender should not be used to exclude women from combat positions. If a person meet the objective qualifications to fulfill a military position, whether or not that person is male or female should never enter into the equation. The military should set a single standard that have to be met for positions and ignore irrelevant characteristics such as race and sex when making personnel decisions. Unfortunately, this is a position even too radical for NOW which, like many feminist thinkers and organizations, maintains that men and women need to have “separate but equal standards” for physical fitness and other criteria used to evaluate a soldier’s fitness.
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