Finland’s conscription policy should treat all genders equally, according to responses from the Social Democrat (SDP) and Green parties to an Yle security policy survey sent to party leaders.
Other parliamentary parties would keep conscription as it is, with female military service carried out on a voluntary basis, although the party leaders said they would recommend tweaking the system slightly.
For example, several parties said they would like to see the call-ups, or the information session and health check prior to military service, extended to the entire age group, or all men and women born in the same year. However, those respondents said military service would remain a duty for men only and voluntary for women, as it has been until now.
An October poll by news outlet Uutissuomalainen found that more than one-third of people in Finland wanted to extend military conscription to women.
SDP, Greens ready for change
According to SDP leader and Prime Minister Sanna Marin, the problem with the current conscription system is that military and civilian service leaves a lot of untapped potential . She added there should be a broad societal debate on conscription.
“Finland should prepare a proposal for a national service that takes into account equal opportunities for gender participation,” Marin stated in her response.
The next government should, according to the Green party, start preparing a reform of the conscription system. After the reform, conscription would treat all genders equally, and would therefore be a fully equal system, the Greens responded.
“These days we shouldn’t only be conscripting men,” Green party chair Maria Ohisalo said.
NCP on the fence
The National Coalition Party (NCP), on the other hand, did not lock in its answer one way or the other. It is in favour of organising conscription for the whole age group and of developing national defence in a more equal direction.
“Taking into account the changed security environment in Finland and Europe and the expectations of equality in national defence, it is worth examining the need to develop conscription to ensure that it is best prepared to serve Finland’s security,” said NCP chair Petteri Orpo in his party’s response.
Most parties against gender-neutral conscription
According to the Christian Democrats, the Centre Party, the Finns, Movement Now and the SPP, conscription should remain unchanged.
Women’s participation in call-ups is a good idea, as it increases the spread of national defence awareness and interest in overall security, said Riikka Purra, chair of the Finns Party.
“However, military conscription should continue to apply only to men,” Purra noted.
The Swedish People’s Party leader, and Finland’s Justice Minister, Anna-Maja Henriksson was also in favour of common call-ups for the whole age group, regardless of gender.
Everyone should be able to take part in call-ups, and unarmed service should also be possible for volunteers, according to Hjallis Harkimo, the Movement Now chair.
Women’s voluntary military service should also be developed, Christian Democrats’ chair Sari Essayah noted.
The number of women in the Defence Forces should be increased based on voluntary service, said Centre Party chair Annika Saarikko.
“As the age groups decrease, conscription for both sexes may become an issue in the future,” Saarikko continued, pointing to Finland’s ageing demographics.
Left Alliance wants conscription upheaval
The Left Alliance also responded to the party leaders’ survey that it does not support extending conscription to the entire age group, regardless of gender. However, it took a slightly different approach from the other parties which answered no.
People should be selected for military service on the basis of motivation and skills rather than gender, and conscription should be changed to treat all genders equally, the Left Alliance’s response stated.
“Such a reform would increase citizens’ freedom of choice and improve the performance of the reserve army. The number of trainees would not increase,” said Li Andersson, Left Alliance chair and education minister.
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