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Can Russian women put men to shame in army service?
Monday, 24 December 2012 17:01

Very interesting initiatives may appear at times at Russia's Parliament, the State Duma. For example, some deputies suggest calling women for military service. Recruits in skirts will have a legal right to dodge the army service. However, according to sociologists, up to 30 percent of girls are willing to serve.

Interestingly, the women are ready to serve their homeland for one simple reason.  They want to use their service in the army to find decent husbands there.

Up to 17 percent of unmarried women dream of marrying military men. It's worth mentioning that 10 years ago, the number of such women was lower - six percent. The reason for this phenomenon is most likely the following: military men receive relatively large salaries, plus the housing problem is much less serious with them.

Back to the topic of women in the military. Franz Klintsevich, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee told Pravda.Ru:

"Creating conditions for recruitment, we could improve a qualitative contingent, including the contingent of professionals working in the military. Women can be physically stronger than men, and they can be superior in intelligence - they are more responsible. Recruits in skirts will become a significant example for male recruits who evade army service."

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Women in the army do not raise anyone's eyebrows anymore. For example, women are called to serve in Israel. By law, all citizens of this country, including those with dual citizenship and those living in other countries, as well as all permanent residents of the state, are drafted to serve in the IDF at age 18. The period of military service is 36 months, and 24 months for women. Female Bedouins, Christian and Muslim women can serve in the military as volunteers. The women who get married at the time of the call are exempt from compulsory service. Most of the country's women serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (women in Israel are bound to military service).

Physical capabilities of women make quite an acute problem at this point. According to American experts, the physical strength of a woman makes up only about 60 percent of the strength of a man, if they are of the same height and weight. These circumstances affect the practical activities of women in the armed forces or in the course of training.

There are many women in the U.S. Army too. Female soldiers made up 14.5 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces in 2004. The law from 1991 overturned the ban for the participation of women in ground operations. They were allowed to take any positions except for those that require a physical contact with the enemy. In the U.S. Army, women are not allowed to lift weights or serve on submarines. In 1994, under the pressure from feminist organizations, women were allowed to serve in combat units. As of 2004, there were 12 women in the ranks of generals and admirals in the U.S. Army. In 1997, President Bill Clinton signed an order conferring the title of Lieutenant General to Deputy Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Intelligence Claudia Kennedy. She became the first woman-general in American history who was decorated with three stars.

In 1985, the Royal Norwegian Navy allowed military women to serve on submarines. In 1995, a woman was appointed a captain of a combat submarine. The Danish Navy allowed women to serve on submarines in 1988, the Swedish - in 1989, the Royal Australian Navy did the same in 1998, Canada and Spain - in 2000.

In the West, women began to be admitted to active duty in the late 1970s. However, only a few countries allow women to perform active combat roles. Among them there are: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Germany, Norway, Israel, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Western experience shows that the proportion of women in the military creates quite serious problems. In particular, the command has to think about the accommodation of personnel on ships and submarines. It is believed that the introduction of women into combat units may affect the cohesion of groups, because not all men trust women. There are concerns about the development of romantic or sexual relationship in the army.

Igor Kartashov, retired colonel, candidate of military sciences:

"Generally, the admission of women to military service is not a new issue. For example, in tsarist Russia, women were not allowed to military service. At that time, women were doing the things that they were born to do: giving birth to children and raising them. Some women, who took their sex as a mistake of nature, tried to serve in the army, albeit under the guise of men.

"For the first time in the world, women obtained equal rights with men, without any professional restrictions, in Canada in 1895. It was the time when women were allowed to serve in the military as full-fledged soldiers. The situation in Russia was all different, though.

"Russian women, who were awarded with the Order of St. George during World War I, achieved that only because they pretended to be men. Russian women would serve in the army during the Civil War and during World War II: they served mainly as nurses, radio operators and typists. Women also served as snipers and pilots.

"After the war, women continued to serve in the army on their usual positions, but their number was very small. In connection with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the democratization processes under the pressure of Western Europe (where feminist organizations were strong), Russian officials decided that we need to increase the number of women not only in the government but also in the army.

"Women responded gladly. As a result, their number exceeds 10 percent of the entire personnel of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In this respect, Russia reached the same level with Western Europe. Many women in the Russian army have officer ranks, up to general's titles.

"Should women be bound to compulsory military service? There is nothing negative here. However, women's service will make the army more expensive.  One will need to build additional barracks for women, separate toilets and so on. In addition, women's physical capabilities are much more modest. On the other hand, women can easily compensate the lack of strength with their flexibility and their art of handling weapons.

"While women are weaker than men, they have another advantage - they are hardier. The world record in long-distance swimming belongs to a woman. A recent research conducted by the Military Medical Academy showed that women are more resistant to stress.

By the way, in 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev supported the experiment for admission of women to military schools of the country. A few years ago, Russia's Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School accepted 20 girls as an experiment. They still serve there.

Women make up about 50 percent of the total number of contractual soldiers.  As far as I know, Russian lawmakers work on a new bill "On military duty of citizens of the Russian Federation." As women continue to ask for equal rights with men, the government, in my opinion, could include the duty of young women to serve in the army just like men do."

Igor Schmidt, Doctor of Law, a member of the International Bar Association:

"A study conducted in our country showed that there are no principal contraindications for women to serve in the military. Moreover, military women enjoy a higher level of health than military men. Today, they are involved in all kinds of professions that used to be considered as professions solely for men. They fight as boxers, they lift heavy barbells and move multi-ton vehicles. There is nothing surprising about the fact that they want to serve in the army.

For example, American women have recently acquired the right to serve on submarines. Thus, Russian women already have an example to follow. We only need to give them legal grounds to serve in the army like men. In addition to the equal rights issue, women will get other benefits - free education (specialty). To crown it all, it will be easier for many of them to find lifetime partners in the army.

Everyone understands that the proposal to make military service compulsory for women will not thrill all women, not to mention men. But none of them shows any signs of protest when women go out onto the boxing ring, do weightlifting, serve in special forces, or compete with men in non-scuba diving into ocean depths without (as Angela Bandini, who reached 107 meters in deep diving without scuba).

Taking into account these and other trends in the behavior of women, the proposal to extend the obligation to serve in the armed forces for them is quite fair. After all, young women may be useful at alternative services - they can fulfill civic duties at hospitals, hospices, daycare centers and so on."

Andrey Mikhailov


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