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Finnish Defense Forces starting unisex quarters pilot

A limited, voluntary trial this spring will see male and female soldiers sharing the same living space.

Finland has a universal conscription for young men. Women serve as volunteers. Image: Juha Metso / AOP

Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen signed a regulation on Tuesday for a trial of unisex quarters in barracks in the Finnish military. As of this spring, several Defense Forces units will house men and women together as a pilot programme.

The initiative for the trial originated with Finland's conscripts' union (Varusmiesliitto).

"We are very pleased that a trial is being started. Other Nordic countries have had good experiences with unisex quarters, and I see no reason why this wouldn't work in Finland, as well," says conscripts' union chair Topi Korpinen.

The move also has the backing of women who have served in the military on a voluntary basis who say they experienced housing in separate quarters as discriminatory. According to Defense Minister Kaikkonen, women argue that separate housing isolated them from their peers.

Korpinen agrees, adding that women have felt left out and not received orders and instructions as well as their male counterparts.

"The unisex quarters will increase unit cohesion and, for example, make briefings easier," Korpinen points out.

Initially, 3-4 units will take part in the trial which is scheduled to last into 2021. One of them will be the Reserve Officer School in Hamina.

Assignment to unisex quarters will be on a voluntary basis.

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