A call for Swiss women to do compulsory military service

Military service attracts few women in Switzerland. Keystone / Urs Flueeler

Switzerland should make military service compulsory for women in the view of the president of the Swiss Officers' Association (SOG), which has roughly 22,000 members.

This content was published on July 18, 2021 - 15:51

According to Stefan Holenstein, "it is time that both genders have the same rights and duties in the military."

His remarks were published on Sunday in the German-language Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag.

The SOG is independent of the Swiss government and serves as the umbrella organisation for Switzerland’s regional military officers’ associations.

"We are convinced that the army can no longer do without more than 50% of society's potential," Holenstein continued.

All able-bodied Swiss men are called up to do military service from the age of 19. If declared fit for military service - as on average two-thirds of conscripts are –-the only way out is to opt for civilian community service on ethical grounds. 

Military service is optional for women. They currently make up less than 1% of those servicing in the Swiss army. The SOG president says a change in culture is among the things needed to attract more female recruits and boost military ranks.

The Swiss army is expected to shrink to 30,000 people – a quarter of its current size – by 2030.To fix the problem, Switzerland’s defence ministry is studying four possible models of compulsory service, three envisage mandatory service for women.

The Geneva-based association "Service Citoyen" plans to launch a citizens’ initiative on August 1 to make military or civilian service compulsory for men and women.

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