Should women serve in the army? Presidential candidates have their say

Over the past five years, Lithuania has endorsed rapid militarization, using Israel as its role model. A public broadcaster asked presidential candidates whether it's time to introduce military conscription for women.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Lithuania
Should women serve in the army? Presidential candidates have their say - NewsMavens
A personal picture of Mr. V.P.Andriukaitis Andrius Ufartas - Own work

Why this story matters:

Lithuanian authorities took the war in Crimea as a wake-up call and not only reintroduced military conscription for men, but also set off to make all things military popular and cool.

Women enthusiastically joined the military, paramilitary organizations and numerous military-themed events as volunteers. Beauty pageant winner Rūta Elžbieta Mazurevičiūtė, awarded for excellence in her military service in 2013, became one of the faces of the trend. The former ambassador to Israel, Darius Degutis, started touring the country promoting the benefits of universal military service. In this context, the question of women's conscription keeps resurfacing.

As Lithuania prepares for presidential elections, the public broadcaster (LRT) asked the candidates about their opinions. None of the male candidates was in favor of compulsory conscription of women, but they cited very different reasons for this.

The candidates' responses:

  • Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, EU commissioner: against conscription and in favor of a professional army, where men and women would be equal.
  • Arvydas Juozaitis (far-right candidate): women should be 'invited' rather than conscripted, especially for work with computers.
  • Valentinas Mazuronis, MEP: women should have equal opportunities to volunteer for the military, "but guys get physically stronger, there's nothing wrong that they do some sports and become more masculine. I don't think there is a need for girls to become more masculine..."
  • Gitanas Nausėda (neoliberal): "Let us leave the freedom for girls to decide whether they want to be in military service or not."
  • Mindaugas Puidokas: "I think a man is the kind of soldier who defends the country, his family [and] his woman." Women could take up administrative and medical jobs in the military.
  • Naglis Puteikis: "Why not? This doesn't mean that girls must run around trenches with machine guns."
  • Saulius Skvernelis, prime minister: doesn't support women's conscription. The current model to be reviewed in 2022.
  • Ingrida Šimonytė, the only female candidate (see profile here): "The more people are trained to defend their country, the safer we can feel."
  • Valdemar Tomaševski, MEP: "That would be nonsense. Girls have a different nature."
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