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    Japan’s Navy Sets Sights on More Women in Service - But Not Because of Equality

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    Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force wants more women in the service, but it has nothing to do with gender equality.

    Japan's Self-Defense Force has set a goal to increase the percentage of women in military service, driving it up to nine percent overall by 2030, from this year's six percent. However, the underlying cause has nothing to do with tolerance and gender equality.

    The Japanese military needs more women because it needs to plug staffing holes it cannot fill with men, due to falling birth rates, according to a Reuters report.

    Tokyo first let women to serve on warships in 1993, and its troubled demographics seem to be forcing it further down this path: the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) is about to remove the ban keeping women sailors from submarine duty, Reuters reports, citing sources in Japan's defense ministry.

    With some 100 vessels, 20 submarines, more than 40 destroyers and four helicopter carriers, Japan has one of the world's largest fleets, requiring approximately 50,000 personnel.

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    However, administrative barriers are not the only thing keeping women away from military service. There is, of course, the mundane issue of sexual harassment. In July, the Japanese navy discharged a male petty officer for kissing and groping three female sailors over a period of several months, Reuters reports.

    In an effort to tackle the issue, the MSDF has introduced separate sleeping quarters for women on its ships, even reportedly hanging signs warning male personnel to keep out.

    Still, young Japanese teenagers of both sexes appear to be significantly more reluctant to join the MSDF when compared to other branches of the military, and reason behind that hesitance could be social networks. Japan's youth are loathe to be cut off the social media, as sailors are only allowed to send four text messages per day, Reuters reports. It is yet unknown whether the MSDF might change its policy and let crewmen finally access internet in full while on duty in an effort to boost recruitment.

    If Japan succeeds in its goal of raising the percentage of women in service to nine percent over all military branches combined, it would still fall short of the 15 percent and 10 percent marks of the US and UK militaries, respectively. In Russia, some 45,000 of 900,000 service members are women, making them five percent of overall staff.

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    Tags:
    birth rate, gender equality, women, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Japan
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