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Norway to introduce gender neutral conscription

A female officer on the Norwegian Coast Guard vessel KV Heimdal welcomes U.S. sailors to the ship on Aug. 30, 2011.

JEFF TROUTMAN/U.S. NAVY

By LENNART SIMONSSON | Deutsche Presse-Agentur | Published: June 15, 2013

OSLO, Norway -- Mandatory military service in Norway should in future be extended to all citizens, regardless of gender, according to a resolution backed by a broad majority in the country's parliament Friday.

Defence chief Harald Sunde said he was "very happy" about the move, saying "it has not been a good solution that we could only draw on half the Norwegian youth as conscripts."

The resolution adopted Friday urged the government to push ahead with legislation on gender neutral conscription. This was expected to be completed this year and presented in the spring of 2014.

Since only the Christian Democrats, a minority opposition party, were against the move, the planned bill was expected to sail through the legislature.

Current law says all men aged 19 to 44 are obliged to military service for up to 19 months. The first tour of duty comprises 12 months. There are provisions for conscientious objectors.

The military estimated that, each year, about 10,000 conscripts out of an eligible pool of 60,000 carry out the initial 12-month tour of duty. Women have in recent years been able to volunteer and constitute about 10 per cent of the total.

The government said it aimed to double that by 2020.

The country has, in the past, endorsed moves towards gender equality, such as in 2003, when it implemented a quota for female board members.

Defence Minister Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen told public broadcaster NRK that the move was "important for gender equality in the military and to improve the military."

She credited the country's youth with promoting the proposal, which she said would also show Norway's NATO allies that there was "strong support for conscription."

The Defence Ministry and military estimate that, in future, about 9,000 conscripts are needed each year out of an estimated eligible pool of 60,000 youths.

The first female conscripts under the new system were expected to be enrolled in 2015.

"In practice, no one will serve in the military unless they are motivated," Labour Party legislator Laila Gustavsen, member of the foreign affairs and defence committee, told news agency NTB.
 

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