Switzerland debates conscripting women for the army amid Ukraine crisis

Switzerland debates conscripting women for the army amid Ukraine crisis

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, countries across Europe have been reevaluating their defensive capabilities. After choosing to side with EU in imposing sanctions on Russia, Switzerland is now debating how to bolster the military, with one of the ideas being to include women in national service.

Switzerland to spend more on the military after Russian invasion

Following the recent announcement that Germany was massively increasing military spending in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, Swiss politicians have called for a higher defence budget. On Monday, the Swiss People’s Party submitted a motion that would increase defence spending by 2 billion Swiss francs a year and would recruit 20.000 more full-time soldiers. Other plans include extending the conscription period and making civilian alternatives to national service harder to choose.

However, many within the Swiss government say this is not enough, as although Switzerland has a standing army of 21.000 soldiers and a reserve force of 218.000, very few could be mobilised quickly to counter a threat. Politicians have therefore been looking for a solution to the problem.

Switzerland to boost support for female soldiers

“The army needs women,” concluded Dominik Knill, President of the Swiss Officers' Society. Currently, women are allowed to serve in the army on a voluntary basis, while it remains compulsory for most men. Now, military institutions are planning a campaign to attract more female volunteers.

Knill said that women who are already in the military are role models, and that he hopes that the "proportion of women in the army will continue to increase, despite being voluntary." He said that the military is integral to the nation and that in raising awareness of its role, “More men and women would proudly do military service.”

Renewed debate over female conscription in Switzerland

There has also been renewed debate around making national service compulsory for women. For this to happen, a constitutional amendment, and most likely a referendum, would have to take place. 

A survey of officials in the Swiss government has indicated that the parliament in Bern remains lukewarm towards changing the conscription law. The Social Democratic Party of Switzerland and the Green Party are generally against the proposal, saying that Switzerland should focus on humanitarian efforts before increasing the size of its military.

Member of the Council of States, Werner Salzmann, did not call for compulsory service for women, but instead said that Switzerland should “increase the attractiveness [of the military] for women.” Susanne Vincenz-Stauffacher, National Councillor and president of FDP. The Liberals is equally supportive of women in the military, but did not want it to become compulsory.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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