Compulsory military service for women? “Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, there has been increased discussion about a return to conscription, and there is a shortage of personnel in the Bundeswehr. Is it so significant that women should also be drafted?” asks the Süddeutsche Zeitung (plus), along with a “pro” argument by Sina-Maria Schweikle and a “contra” argument by Nicolas Freund.

In light of regulations in countries like Sweden and Denmark, Schweikle argues: “Women who engage in the defense of their country are part of a NATO-wide trend that Germany should not ignore in order to ensure military readiness.”

“It has been shown that women, just like men, are capable of serving in the armed forces, fighting with weapons, and defending the country. (…) The tasks are complex and diverse; not every woman or man will be immediately in the trenches in the event of defense. Defense also means repelling cyber attacks or working in medical services.”

Women are still a clear minority in the Bundeswehr: their share is about 13%.

Military service would need to be structured differently today than in the past, Schweikle says, and should be linked to compensation offers such as funding for studies and training or shorter waiting times for university studies.

“However, a turning point in defense policy also means that everyone who is physically capable must contribute. Truly equal women do not want to be exempt from a service obligation here.”

➡ Freund, on the other hand, emphasizes: “To become attractive to women, something would have to change in the sometimes toxic culture in the Bundeswehr.”

Of course, women could perform the same tasks as men, so all areas of the Bundeswehr should be open to them in principle. So the question is not whether women could serve in the Bundeswehr. But whether they should be forced to do so – and whether that would be a contribution to equality.

The previously frequently cited argument of balancing justice – given the additional burden on many women due to pregnancy, childbirth, and care work – is now only partially valid for Freund, but: “Paying attention to a balance between the genders here and not burdening women with even more potential tasks would be only fair in a justice-minded society.”

A nightmare and a real threat for women – and not only for them – would be an environment characterized by brutal rituals, excessive binge drinking, and the like. “The Bundeswehr does not have to become a cuddly troop if women are to serve. But if all genders are to be conscripted equally one day, then the service must also be designed accordingly” – so that it could be recognized as a valuable life experience and service to the entire society.