UK pursues reform for women in armed combat after U.S. lifts ban

“If you want to end wars, have women fight them,” said Robert Duncan, visiting assistant professor in political science.

Women are now fighting those wars. Last November, four female soldiers and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, stating that women already served in combat roles but went unrecognized.

Not long after, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended lifting the ban and Panetta affirmed it. With the ban on women serving in combat positions now lifted, women can take up jobs in ground combat units and on the front lines.

Following this decision, the U.K. considered pursuing similar reform. Females in the U.K. have already become more involved in politics. Now, some women in the U.K. are looking for equal involvement in their military as well.

“On the whole, women (in the House of Commons are) more consensual,” said Charles Moore, columnist for the Spectator and Daily Telegraph. “I would actually be very sad if the way women stand for peace and gentleness in society was taken away.”

Similarly, some believe women could help achieve peace through participation in combat roles.

“In Afghanistan and Iraq, you can’t have a male frisking a female indigenous person,” said Duncan. “The more interactions we have with male oriented culture, where women are put off limits, you’re going to have a need for females in the military to do certain things that would be objectionable if men did.”

But some still doubt that women can handle the physical and psychological stress of combat.

“So what are we achieving … except wasting a huge amount of resources by trying to train women up to a level I don’t think they are going to meet,” Major Judith Webb, the first female to lead an all-male field squadron in the British Army, told BBC News.

“All through history, we have underestimated the physical abilities of women,” said Professor of Sports Studies Kathy Tritschler. “Some women are absolutely capable of doing all tasks, including the tasks of combat. Not every woman will be, nor will every man … but gender does not define who is capable of succeeding.”

Still, the U.K. is conflicted about combat reform. There are citizens who feel women should be protected from dangerous situations.

“Females do all kinds of jobs today, so if they choose to serve in combat roles good luck to them, but I will always see it as the male’s role to protect the females,” said U.K. citizen Peter Tarry in an email interview.

U.K. females are not necessarily in favor of changing military roles, however.

“I actually don’t agree with women on the front line,” said U.K. citizen Gill Tarry. “I am happy for them to be nurses or doctors.”

For now, women in the U.K. will remain behind the front lines. A Ministry of Defense spokesman told the BBC, “The Ministry of Defense 2010 review into women serving in combat roles concluded there should be no change to the existing policy. There are no plans to review this policy before the end of operations in Afghanistan.”

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