With the decision, seen as another major step towards equal rights, Norway will be the only European country and first peacetime NATO member practising gender-neutral conscription.
- This is important for two reasons. Male-only conscription is out of synch with the rest of society. All citizens shall have the same rights and obligations, regardless of sex. Secondly, in order to secure our operational capabilities in the future we need to recruit the best, and we need diversity. Therefore we cannot limit our recruitment to the male half of the population, says the Defence Minister.
Women as likely to serve as men
This does not mean that all women must serve in the military. Women will, however, be subject to conscription on an equal basis with men, making them as likely to serve in the military as people of the opposite gender. Norway’s armed forces have an annual requirement for 8-10.000 conscripts out of a total of 60.000 men and women in the relevant age group. Recruitment is already high and increasing, and the number of applicants each year exceeds the needs of the Armed Forces.
- We do not adopt conscription for women because we need more soldiers, but because we need the best, no matter who they may be, says the Defence Minister, and adds: - High-tech equipment alone does not make for a modern military; we also need a modern and diverse organisation with different people, skills and perspectives.
Hoping for more women
Norway’s goal is to have 20 percent women in its armed forces by 2020. Today the share is nine percent. Over the years, a wide range of measures have been taken to increase the number of women, but they have yielded limited results.
- Today, women who join the military are asked why they do it. It is my hope that the natural question to ask in the future is why they don’t want to serve, says Mrs. Stroem-Erichsen.