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Military

Norway extends mandatory military service to women

Norway has voted to extend mandatory military conscription to all citizens, regardless of gender, the first peacetime European or NATO country to do so. Women will now likely face one year of military service as of 2015.

Norway's parliament overwhelmingly backed a resolution on Friday, which urges the government to push ahead with legislation on gender neutral conscription.

"Rights and duties should be the same for all," said Labour lawmaker Laila Gustavsen, a supporter of the bill. "The armed forces need access to the best resources, regardless of gender, and right now mostly men are recruited."

The resolution, put forward by Norway's center-left government, was met only with opposition from the small Christian Democrat party, meaning it will more than likely win legislative approval.

If adopted into law, women would likely be drafted for one year of service with the Norwegian military as of 2015. As with male conscripts, the change is not expected to force women to serve against their will, but simply improve gender balance.

Despite practicing conscription, Norway does not draft all eligible citizens and has provisions in place for conscientious objectors. Currently 8,000 to 10,000 Norwegian males aged between 19 and 44 are conscripted every year in Norway. They are chosen from an eligible pool of some 60,000 and are selected on the basis of physical and physiological tests, as well as their motivation.

"In practice, no one will serve in the military unless they are motivated," Gustavsen said.

Women have been eligible to serve in the military on a volunteer basis since 1976 and currently constitute 10 percent of military conscripts. The Defense Ministry had previously said it aimed to double that by 2020.

Norway has generally been at the forefront of gender equality initiatives in Europe. In 2003, it implemented a quota for female board members, requiring that they make up 40 percent of board seats in all public limited companies.

On Wednesday, Norway celebrated the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.

ccp/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)