Whether women in the military should be allowed to participate in direct ground combat and in infantry, are questions that have long been debated by men and women alike. Direct combat is engaging or attacking the enemy with deliberate, offensive action under fire. Current Defense Department regulations require that direct combat units be male. Controversies surrounding women’s active duty in these positions stem from long-held views on traditional gender roles. In general, integration of women into military has been slow and uneven; for the servicewomen, they were still barred from several positions. Few years back, they were not allowed in the infantry, armored units, ground surveillance radar platoons Special Forces, combat engineering companies, and air-defense artillery batteries. The role of women in the military was largely limited to non- combatant roles such as laundress, tailors, counselors, nurses, and cooks (Lind and Brzuzy 372).
Women should be allowed to serve in the war front lines because they are eager, ready, and capable of serving their country fully. Studies show that servicewomen can tolerate the same living conditions, and can perform similar duties and responsibilities as servicemen. They execute their assigned roles professionally, diligently and without the need for special consideration. The military accession policies are becoming more and more an all-volunteer force. Women’s participation tends to increase under voluntary accession systems; besides the supply of men does not meet the demand for military labor (Segal 765-766).
Opponents of women in the battle frontline perceive women as being weaker and less capable than men are in battle. It is the societal understanding that women being feminine are weaker and inferior to masculine men. Certainly, participation in the military especially on the frontline is a physically demanding job that not everybody is on top form to hold. However, a research by the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in the army has shown that when a female is correctly trained, she can be as competent as any male and can successfully execute military duties traditionally performed by men. All the women in the study were civilians, including mothers, recruited on a volunteer basis volunteers, and none had beforehand participated in a routine of strenuous physical activity. Besides, servicewomen in many countries, including Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam are already attesting themselves in such roles (Peach 156).
In the twenty-first century, there has been great advancement of military technology and numerous technological developments that have led to substitution of brainpower for brawn power in the warrior role. These changes, the related specialization of military roles with increased emphasis on technical skill, and their assimilation to civilian occupations all have a positive impact on the possibility of women to fit with military roles (Segal 762). Current and future wars involve technological and computerized combat–drones, satellites, computers, robotics and unmanned aircraft, minimal hand-to-hand combat-grenade lobbing, throat slitting, and bayonet stabbing. Both sexes can handle this computerized and technologically advanced combat equally well; thus, it means that women are now more capable of serving in frontline as compared to the past centuries.
Many opponents of women’s participation to explain why women should not be allowed in the battlefields especially in the frontline combat have cited sexual tension. The concern is over possible sexual relations that could result in unwanted pregnancy, or cause conflict when facing combat, as in the argument that a man would be more likely to protect his lover than fight for his country; the sexual relations may undermine esprit de corps and that pregnancies will affect readiness. Studies have been conducted to show that gender-integrated combat units are as effective as male-only combat units are and that the members of these units are more likely to develop brother-sister bonds than sexual bonds (Peach, 167). With regard to pregnancy, the historical argument against allowing women in combat was their conflicting roles as mothers, or potential mothers. It is the notion of protecting the nation’s child bearers. While the argument remains that women lose more duty time than men due to pregnancy, this may not be accurate if the rates of men’s loss of duty time for being absent without leave, for desertion, for drug and alcohol abuse, and for confinement are tallied. While pregnancy does prevent a woman from serving to her fullest capacity, women potential to be mothers should not prevent all women from serving in the military (Peach 170-171).
Opponents of putting women into frontline and infantry argue that it is too dangerous to put female soldiers in such a compromising position owing to the risk of being captured by the enemy forces and becoming war prisoners. Indisputably, there is a greater possibility for acts of rape and sexual harassment with the inclusion of women to the front lines; however, warfare especially in the modern times is quite risky and the risk is equally high for those serving as support staff. For instance, regardless of being in support roles, two female soldiers serving in the United States army during the Gulf War were captured and the Iraqis sexually molested one. This occurrence raised the argument by those who are cynical about having females in such dangerous positions. Further, they query if women should be exposed to the risk of the horrors of front-line combat. However, the fact is adult females who make a conscious decision to enlist in the military, servicewomen who chose to go to defend from the frontline, and infantry are aware of the consequences. Besides, it is evident that both women and men are victims of rape in wartime and that women are sexually abused at home, not just on the battlefield (Peach 170).
In some environments, there are strict cultures about the contact between male soldiers and female civilians. As such, in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a great need to have female soldiers serving in direct frontline combat units. This arises due to the need for conducting body searches on the civilian women; on some occasions, there will be a need to access segregated areas meant for women only, such as female areas in mosques. Women on combat units can easily perform such tasks while resulting in lesser offense among the occupying inhabitants. A remarkable illustration of this is the female United States military personnel who are purposely assigned to take part in patrols, raids, and combats for this purpose. For instance, the USMC Lioness program, enlists the services of female marines to search women at roadblocks in the Iraq-Syrian border points and the urban areas. The US Army Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) is another classic example of female personnel units intended to go along with special combat teams; they deployed into the front line combats to give access to the information and cater for the unique needs of women in the local communities where interaction between male soldiers and female civilians is ethnically fraught. These cases emphasize the important need of having women in the frontline combats and infantry.
Women are currently serving with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan. All soldiers, regardless of their gender and specialty, are exposed to occupation risks. Interestingly, during the Vietnam War, nearly three-quarters of all military women were subjected to combat positions (Peach 156). However, there are many positions from which women are barred because of regulations intended to keep women from direct combat situations. In this age of modern warfare, there are no longer certain front lines. Women have proven that they are capable of fighting alongside men and should be allowed admittance to the remaining positions. In the light of escalating military involvement around the world, more soldiers are needed; therefore, qualified women should not be turned away. Finally, it is quite clear that, by the failure of governments to incorporate females into front-line combat and infantry, they are refusing to tap into another great source of soldiers and military personnel for military combat operations and creating institutions that discriminate women as second-class citizens who are lesser to men.
Lind, Amy, and Brzuzy, Stephanie. Battleground: A-L. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008.
Peach, Lucinda, J. Gender Ideology in the Ethics of Women in Combat. J. Stiehm ed.
Philadelphia: Temple University Press.1996. Print.
Seagal, M. W. The Argument for Female Combatants. N. L. Goldman ed. Westport, CT:
Greenwood. 1982. Print.