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Majority in Finland against obligatory female conscription

Currently only male citizens are obligated to serve in the military, while women have the option to enlist voluntarily.

Corporals Roosa Kouri (on left) and Teemu Rehu (centre) of the Jaeger Brigade said they were satisfied with the current conscription system. Image: Jyri Tynkkynen / Yle

Some 65 percent of respondents said they want Finland's conscription system to remain unchanged, according to a survey commissioned by Yle.

However the survey, carried out by polling firm Taloustutkimus, also found that young respondents were more open to changes in the compulsory military service scheme.

Currently only young male citizens are obligated to serve in the military, while women have the option to enlist voluntarily.

Earlier this year the Finnish Defence Forces reported a record number of female applicants for military service, but according to the survey few appear to be prepared to make conscription for women obligatory.

About 28 percent of respondents said they would prefer a conscription scheme where women would also have to serve in some kind of civilian capacity which supports conscription.

However, only four percent of all respondents said that conscription service should also be obligatory for young women.

Idea that war is a man's job "accepted in silence"

Taloustutkimus research chief, Juho Rahkonen, said he is surprised by the low support for female conscription.

"This has been a blind spot in the equality debate. It's said that there should not be any career exclusively meant for men or women in Finland. But many continue to think that war is a man's job. It is accepted in [their] silence," Rahkonen said.

Younger people were slightly more open to the idea. About 41 percent of respondents between 15-24 years of age said they supported obligatory civilian service for women, while eight percent of the younger set said female conscription should be mandatory.

The founder of Asepalvelus 2020 (roughly: Conscription 2020) which is working for reforms to the country's conscription system, Milja Suihko, said that the poll results suggest younger people don't see gender as a factor that determines their place in society.

"Gender-based military obligation is no longer justified these days," Suihko said.

Story continues after photo.

Varusmiehen naama maalattu maastoutumista varten
File photo. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Freshly-minted defence minister Antti Kaikkonen recently requested an analysis of the topic of female conscription. One of his proposals is for young women to perform a couple months of compulsory civilian service which would complement the current system.

Kaikkonen said there are likely bigger gender problems facing society than the issue of male conscription, adding that the system isn't equal for everyone and needs to be looked into.

"It is a motivation for both men and women to be able to take part in defence of the country and contribute to the development of society. We'll see if we can find a model that's possible to realise. Before that it's too early to say anything," Kaikkonen said.

The minister said there are plans this autumn to examine how the military service system should be developed.

The Yle-commissioned survey was carried out by polling firm Taloustutkimus at the beginning of June and queried about 1,000 residents over the age of 15 by telephone. The survey has a three percentage point margin of error in either direction.

Yle News' podcast All Points North discussed the topic of female conscription with three experts last month.

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