Geopolitics

Women Warriors: Germany Makes Room For Female Soldiers

A decade after opening the military to women, Bundeswehr officials face reports of sexual harassment aboard a German navy ship, and study the U.S. model for integration.

(Bundeswehr)

Ten years ago, the Bundeswehr was destined to become much more feminine. On January 2, 2001, with fewer than 250 female soldiers then enlisted in the German military, the phrase "women must not be obligated to bear arms under any circumstances' was removed from the German constitution. Suddenly, women could choose from a whole new range of career opportunities in the armed forces.

Over the past decade, the numbers of female recruits has grown exponentially, with some 17,300 women currently serving in the German military, accounting for 9% percent of the Bundeswehr. With Germany wholly dependent on a volunteer military, officials are counting on that number reaching 15% in the coming years.

However, the new presence of women in the military is fraught with its own problems. Just in recent days, a controversy surrounding the death of two women aboard the Gorch Fock training ship has raised the troubling topic of sexual harassment in the military. Though there have been no prosecutions in the case, there are reports that the two women, one who fell from the mast and the other who drowned, were bullied and sexually harassed. Critics have called the Gorch Fock: "Germany's biggest floating brothel."

But Diana Behrens, the ship's Equal Rights Officer, has denied that there was any sexual misconduct on board the ship. "I know of no complaints," she says. Behrens is one of 34 equality officers nationwide, a job that has existed since 2005 in the Bundeswehr. Any reports, she says, have just been rumors among young recruits.

Still, adapting the military to the arrival of large numbers of women soldiers is an ongoing challenge. In a 2008 survey of male and female soldiers, the Bundeswehr's Institute of Social Sciences concluded that "the integration of women in the armed forces is not a completed project."

In the U.S. Army, women are fully integrated

There are of course foreign models for how military life and culture can be adapted to the widespread presence of women. The United States military is a prime example. For American women, it was a long and difficult road to armed service, but since the passing of the Equality Act in 1948, women have carved out 15% of the military job market for themselves. In 1948, the U.S. Navy accepted its first eight female officers; in the summer of 2010, there were 53,374 active women in the Navy and 10,587 in the reserves. Women have been allowed to participate in combat since 1994. And in 2010, all four of the Navy's Sailor of the Year honors were awarded to women.

Last year, a final taboo was broken. In the summer of 2010, the first 19 women were taken aboard the Navy's submarine training center. A government commission led by ex-officers recommended overturning an existing ban on women in forward combat zones, acknowledging that the policy did not reflect the realities of asymmetric warfare or do justice to the abilities of female soldiers. The commission also cited a much lower suicide rate among women in the Army.

Sexual assault is still the biggest problem in the United States

While women have made great advancements in the U.S. military, many men are unable to handle the presence of female colleagues. In 2008, the Pentagon reported that nearly 3,000 active duty female soldiers were sexually assaulted, with alleged under-reporting of up to 90 percent. For female soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of such attacks increased by 25 percent from 2007 to 2008. Many women in uniform are hesitant to speak up, fearing embarrassment or harassment.

Only eight percent of rape allegations in the military result in a conviction. Congresswoman Jane Harman of California summarized the situation with this telling fact: "A woman in the military is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq."

Israel is the only western state to require a mandatory women's military service. Soldiers serve for 21 months, and women have a better chance than ever of finding a good job in the Israeli military. Women have been serving as instructors for the Army for quite some time now, although they are still spared from many combat situations. In the Israeli Navy, they are responsible primarily for radar communications and coastal monitoring. More and more women are also serving on Israeli combat boats. But no complaints have been heard as of yet from within the country's small fleet of ships.

Read the original article in German

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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