Switzerland to decide on expanding national service to include women
The Swiss Citizen Service Initiative has confirmed that it now has enough signatures to make its proposal into a referendum. If approved, the plan would require both men and women to participate in national service, either in the military or civil service.
Switzerland to vote on national service for all
In a statement, the initiative committee confirmed that it had managed to secure 107.764 signatures from Swiss citizens in favour of the “For a committed Switzerland” referendum. According to the initiative text, the proposal would make sure that “every person with Swiss citizenship provides a service for the benefit of the general public and the environment” in the form of either military service or militia service (civil defence and / or service).
If approved, any young person regardless of sex would have to commit to national service or else face an increase in tax. Currently, only Swiss men are required to do national service, and while women are able to volunteer for the army, they only made up 1,4 percent of the armed forces in October 2022, according to the Federal Department of Defence.
Supporters argue Swiss national service improves social cohesion
The initiators of the referendum said that they want “every young person, as part of their basic training, [to] make a contemporary commitment to benefit the general public and the environment” through national service. “This means that all young people are committed to the community in a variety of ways - no longer just the Swiss men in the army,” they added.
The committee argued that national service is a highly important tool for social cohesion as it allows people of different backgrounds to come together as equals. They also made the point that requiring women to participate in the military would guarantee staff numbers in the armed forces.
Founded in Geneva in 2013, the Swiss Citizen Service Initiative confirmed that they already have the support of the Green Liberal Party, Pirate Party, Evangelical People's Party and various other political parties and associations around the city. At the moment, the referendum is due to be voted on in 2026, although this is still subject to change.
Opponents argue compulsory service is not equality
Others are not so keen to see the vote passed, with the Group for a Switzerland without an Army (GSsA) telling Blick that it would be “vehemently against an extension of compulsory service.” They highlight that the idea would remove women’s right to choose to serve.
The organisation argued that, contrary to what the initiative would suggest, having women serve alongside men would not lead to more equality. They made the point that women are already financially worse off than men and are already responsible for more unpaid work, meaning an additional obligation to serve could make the situation worse. “Equality does not mean that women are also obliged to join the army, but that men are no longer obliged to do so either,” they wrote.
The Social Democratic Party also voiced their opposition in a statement given to Blick, announcing that they were against “the introduction of a poorly paid compulsory service for all young people, which would have the consequence of postponing their initial and continuing training and preventing them from carrying out voluntary activities of their choice.”