Norway becomes first NATO country to draft women into military

OSLO Fri Jun 14, 2013 11:33am EDT

Laila Gustavsen, a 38-year-old Labour parliamentarian whose daughter Marta Oedegaarden was a survivor of the 2011 Utoeya island massacre, pauses as she speaks at the parliament building in Oslo March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Laila Gustavsen, a 38-year-old Labour parliamentarian whose daughter Marta Oedegaarden was a survivor of the 2011 Utoeya island massacre, pauses as she speaks at the parliament building in Oslo March 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov

Related Topics

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Friday to conscript women into its armed forces, becoming the first European and first NATO country to make military service compulsory for both genders.

"Rights and duties should be the same for all," said Labor lawmaker Laila Gustavsen, a supporter of the bill. "The armed forces need access to the best resources, regardless of gender, and right now mostly men are recruited."

Norway has been at the forefront in the fight for gender equality, introducing measures such as requiring all public limited companies to fill at least 40 percent of their board seats with women. On Wednesday the country celebrated a century since Norwegian women won the right to vote.

Women make up half of the current government, and opposition leader Erna Solberg is expected to become Norway's second female prime minister in elections later this year, according to opinion polls which indicate her Conservative Party and its allies will win a parliamentary majority.

"This is historic. For me it is fantastic to make history, for the armed forces and for women," Gustavsen said.

NATO member Norway has reduced its armed forces since the end of the Cold War and spends heavily on technology to keep a small but advanced military.

Women already serve in the military, but do so of their own volition. They make up a tenth of the armed forces, according to the ministry of defense.

The change is not expected to force women to serve against their will but should help improve the gender balance.

All young people can be conscripted in theory, but since the end of the Cold War the Norwegian armed forces have become more selective in choosing conscripts as their needs have changed.

Those who do not want to serve can often find a reason, such as university studies, to avoid the draft.

"In theory, it is possible (women would have to serve against their will), just as it can happen to men," Gustavsen said.

"But in practice, the armed forces recruit the most motivated young people."

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Writing by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Pravin Char)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (10)
Shamizar wrote:
For the sake of Norway’s young women, I hope they have military commanders with higher moral and ethical standards than ours. It seems like our military “leaders” think rape of female members is just part of military life.

Jun 15, 2013 5:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Foxdrake_360 wrote:
Who cares?

Jun 15, 2013 7:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
onlyif wrote:
oh how men rejoice! for thousands of years the burden of war has fallen on the shoulders of men, its high time women pick up some of this burden. this is pure sexism on the part of females…

women should be compelled to fight to make up for all those years they sat idly by whilst men in their millions have died defending their freedom…equality will not be reached until they are 50% of the causalities…..

/sarc

Jun 15, 2013 8:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.