19:41 GMT +324 April 2018
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    Female army recruits attend a base training at the armored battalion in Setermoen, northern Norway on August 11, 2016

    Sisters in Arms: Norwegian 'Girls in Uniform' Enjoy Army Life More Than Men

    © AFP 2018 / KYRRE LIEN
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    Last year, Norway became the first Nordic nation, European nation and NATO member state to introduce universal conscription in the name of gender equality. Today, Norwegian ladies seem to thrive in the armed forces and enjoy it more than their brothers in arms.

    A recent survey, which for the first time targeted female draftees, has yielded uplifting results for the supporters of a gender-neutral army. Surprisingly, Norwegian girls were found to be more at home in the Norwegian army than their male counterparts.

    A staggering 90 percent of the female draftees from 2016 said they would nevertheless fulfill their military duty, provided that the service was voluntary, as opposed to 84 percent of the young men. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of the female soldiers in the universal conscription would recommend it to other girls, the Norwegian daily Aftenposten reported. Lastly, fewer women who started in the Armed Forces in the summer of 2016 have dropped out compared to men, if measured by percentage.

    According to the Supreme Commander Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, the survey showed that the young people's already high expectations were adequately fulfilled. In total, 84 percent of the Norwegian soldiers said they were happy with the service.

    Also, the practice of joint lodging of male and female draftees proved to be a success and is being imitated in other Nordic countries, such as Finland, whose Armed Forces have been experimenting with shared rooms. According to Anna Olivia Mohaugen of the Norwegian Navy, mixed barracks rooms provide good morale and contribute to a better rapport between the genders. A 2014 study showed that unisex dormitories helped combat sexual harassment owing to so-called "de-genderization," which allegedly helped soldiers develop an almost sibling-like camaraderie.

    The only flaw that blemishes the otherwise lustrous situation is the inveterate problem of sexual harassment, which seems to be almost impossible to weed out. A total of 15 percent of the female conscripts reported having experienced harassment, which is still an improvement compared with 23 percent in 2012. Remarkably, 2 percent of the male conscripts also reported experiences of harassment. To a large extent it is about verbal abuse.

    "The Armed Forces have a zero tolerance for harassment and bullying," the Supreme Commander Haakon Bruun-Hanssen said.

    According to Anna Olivia Mohaugen, a possible explanation is that many draftees come straight from secondary school and bring along their ways and manners.

    The Norwegian Armed Forces number about 23,000 personnel, including civilian employees, and have a full-mobilization combat strength of about 83,000.

    Norwegian women have been able to volunteer for military service for several decades, helping to add a female touch to the Armed Forces. Conscription was extended to Norwegian women only last year, when they made up about 25 percent of the 8,000 youngsters recruited. At present, the percentage of women constitutes about 17 percent, but is gradually creeping upwards. Four of the last five Norwegian Defense Ministers were women.

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    women, armed forces, gender equality, Scandinavia, Norway
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