The Sydney Morning Herald reported how the Defence Science and Technology organisation was investigating the question of what roles should be open to women in the modern defence force. See the full report here.
For me the answer is simple: Women should be able to take on any role in the modern Australian Defence Force that they want to - provided they are capable of doing it. I do not see how a woman wanting to put her life on the line for her country is any different to a man being willing to do so. If that's what someone wants to do while fully understanding all the risks, dangers and hardships they will face -no one should stop them. It's not a challenge I want to embrace myself but I support anyone's right to make that choice, man or woman.
If a woman can meet the same criteria a man has to in order to take on a particular role in the Australian Defence Force - or anywhere else in society for that matter - then she should not be prevented from doing so.
The Daily Telegraph explained that many combat roles were already open to women, although they were not allowed to serve as front-line infantry in units such as special forces, in armoured or artillery units or in some areas where materials toxic to unborn children are used. Women do serve in front-line roles flying helicopters and jet bombers, in the headquarters of front-line units and on submarines and ships in war zones.
I am a firm believer in equality. To me, this means the same rules apply to all and the same opportunities are open to all. I don't want to serve in the special forces in Afghanistan but anyone who can meet the selection criteria should be able to. I don't see how gender should factor into it.
Refreshingly, neither can the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet. ''My own view is that all categories should be open to women,'' he reportedly said. ''The only exceptions should be where the physical demands cannot be met according to criteria that are determined on the basis of scientific analysis rather than assumptions about gender.''The minister said the Defence Science and Technology organisation was working with the University of Wollongong to develop a set of physical employment standards through a new joint centre of expertise. The centre would help the ADF ensure soldiers had the physical capacity to carry out critical tasks, regardless of trade classifications, rank, age, or gender, the minister said.
I think there remains embedded in our collective psyche a resistance to true equality for women in situations such as frontline combat roles in the ADF which is directly connected to the patriarchal basis of modern society. While many people have moved on from the idea of women being the ``property'' of their husband or father, far too many still see women as needing to be protected and looked after.
I'm troubled that it is felt necessary to send anyone off to do duty in a battle zone, be it a mother or a father, man or woman. Am I being too simplistic about this? I don't think so - but please feel free to tell me otherwise.