Why are women exempt from military service?

Conscription is only compulsory for men in Estonia, but the government is trying to get more women to join. However, a recent study shows that most women think military service is not for them.

Marian Männi
Marian Männi Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: Eesti Ekspress
Why are women exempt from military service? - NewsMavens
Estonian female soldier at training, SSG Timothy Koster, DVIDS

Why this story matters:

Up until recently, Estonia was one of the very few European countries with mandatory military service. Now, as tensions build across the continent, more and more countries are re-introducing conscription -- for example, Ukraine, Sweden, Finland and Lithuania.

But usually it is only men who are obliged to go crawl through the mud, sleep in barracks and march and run at dawn.

Since women are fighting for equality in every sector, should military service be any different?

It appears many women think it should.

A recent study shows that female graduate students are not that interested in becoming soldiers.

The main reasons given were extremely conservative: female respondants said they were more emotionally sensitive and physically weaker and that women play a bigger role in the family. Many believed that if women would have to start going into the army, having children would be postponed even more, which is no less important when it comes to the national security.

Details from the story:

  • Between 2013 and 2016 only 130 women joined conscription in Estonia. Out of those, 66 finished (women have the right to leave before the full term). In comparison, as many as 12% of Swedish soldiers are women.
  • The study -- done as a Master's thesis at the The Estonian Academy of Security Sciences -- involved 431 female graduate students. Most of them said they were not interested in joining the army. Many were critical of their physical capabilities when considering the possibility.
  • Maarja Liisa Lindre, who authored the study, concluded: "Based on the answers, women do prioritize contributing to and acquiring necessary knowledge of national defence, but at the same time, most of them still think having children and educating them is more important than military safety."
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