Women in the Slovenian Armed Forces

Article excerpt

I will try to present to you as best I can the current situation of women in the Slovenian Armed Forces from my point of view as an outside observer. In general, the Slovenian Armed Forces reflect the situation in Slovenian politics (only five female representatives in the Slovenian parliament out of 90). If women are not appreciated by society at large, we can not expect male-dominated military organization to value them.


The question of women in the armed forces is not a new topic to the Slovenian researchers at the Department of Defence Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana. Integration of women in the Army has been the subject of several public opinion-polls since the early eighties, when the Yugoslav People's Army introduced an experimental voluntary military service for women.

Since 1991, Slovenia has been an independent state and has created its own armed forces according to the democratic principles of the modern international order. One of these principles is equal gender representation. But as I will show, that principle yet to be implemented.

From an historical point of view armed forces have almost always been male institutions, but women have at least indirectly and spontaneously participated in armies and combat throughout the history of human race. The turning point in the participation of women in the armed forces was World War II, when a general and massive integration of women in military activities occurred for the first time in history.

The emergence of women soldiers is, however, a contemporary phenomenon, mostly of the past three decades, related to the great debates in the West in the seventies about delegitimization and relegitimization of the military. Among the steps taken to relegitimize the military were opening the doors of the armed forces and military academies to women.

Inclusion of women in the military also has, from the women's point of view, important political, economic and ethical implications. First, the right to carry arms grants women full citizenship and more access to political power. Second, being in the military means having control over the use of force. Third, military service gives women an opportunity to receive equal pay for doing the same job as their male colleagues. If women are excluded from the military hierarchy they are also excluded from the main process of decision-making in the state.

Inside the military, women are confronted with ethical, psychological, social and family problems that lead to dissatisfaction with the military profession. Social stereotypes are without a doubt among those problems. A stereotype deeply rooted in societies with different degrees of democracy sees woman only as source of understanding and dialogue, as a bearer of life, as a guardian of positive values of peace and kindness in society. This stereotype entails the traditional dependence of women on men, to protect us from "the outside world." Because we have men, there is absolutely no need for us to train for combat or war. Our traditional role as a life bearer is inconsistent with the role of soldier (i.e., killer).

Women in the armed forces resist that stereotype but are often misunderstood as denying their femininity and as insubordinate to male authority. Men are prepared to accept women in the armed forces as equals to a point, but only as long as they do not represent a professional threat. As soon as a woman achieves a command-and-control position, men are threatened; they become competitive, hostile, and aggressive.

The family also plays a decisive role. It is difficult for women to juggle the roles of mother, wife, and a soldier. The armed forces do not provide sufficient logistic support to enable women to perform these roles simultaneously. Typically, women soldiers are compelled to give up one of these roles; the percentage of unmarried women in the army is thus usually higher than that of women of the same age in the civil service. …