Swiss women could soon join the all-male papal guard
The Swiss Guard, responsible for the safety and security of the pope in the Holy See, are reportedly drawing up plans to allow women to join the all-male force, according to Swiss broadcaster Radio Télévision Suisse. The changes could be introduced as early as 2027.
Swiss Guard suffering from a shortage of soldiers
Though the move is likely to be heralded as a win for women’s rights in the Vatican City, it also comes amidst a shortage of soldiers in the Swiss armed forces, which have triggered calls for compulsory military service for women in the country too.
The decision to allow women to serve in the papal guard would be “important for the image of Switzerland,” according to University of Lausanne history Professor Agostino Paravicini Bagliani.
Women currently make up less than 1 percent of Switzerland’s armed forces, and in recent years there have been ongoing discussions in the military sphere about how to better encourage women to take up roles in the military.
The Swiss Guard is the de facto military of Vatican City
The Swiss Guard, despite being responsible for the pope’s personal security, also play a larger role in Vatican City. Since Vatican City is not equipped with its own military, the Swiss Guard serves as the de-facto defence force for the microstate.
The guards’ strict recruitment code means that currently, only unmarried Swiss Catholic men between the ages of 19 and 30 can serve. This harks back to soldiers from the catholic cantons being known as some of the best warriors in Europe, as shown by many monuments and historical sites in Switzerland.
The role of the Swiss Guard is not only important, but is also deeply rooted in the history of Switzerland - one of the reasons why more “modern” reforms, such as the introduction of women into service, are often seen as controversial. The unit was set up in 1506, making the 500-year-old institution one of the oldest military units in continuous operation.