Interviewed by newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung on Wednesday, Brigadier Denis Froidevaux, President of the Swiss Society of Officers, said he was interested in following the lead of Norway, whose parliament last October passed a bill to make military service compulsory for women.
“In ten or 20 years the biggest concern for the army will be to ensure the quality of its officers. The greater the variety, the easier that task will be. A military service for women widens the pool,” he said.
Currently all Swiss men are obliged to undergo military service when they come of age. Women are allowed to volunteer for military service if they wish, but it is not compulsory.
“In the course of recent years women have gained ground in terms of equality,” he said. “Therefore they should have the same obligations as men.”
To see the benefits of a mixed military, at least 30 percent should be women, he said.
“If you can’t see what value women bring to the army then you’re living on Mars,” Froidevaux told the paper.
“In units where women already serve, there is a very different, positive dynamic.
“I am convinced that efficiency is higher – and this effect would increase if more women would serve.”
Speaking about the physical demands of military service Froidevaux said “it is clear there are such limitations [for women]. But it is women who give birth so they know how to endure pain.
“As for mental toughness, they are on a par with men.”
He added that the image of the army as a macho organization was “outdated.”
The Swiss army “has the advantage that it consists of people who live civilian lives, where women have equal rights. I do not see why they should behave any differently in the military.”
If Switzerland were to follow Norway’s lead it would become only the second European and NATO country to initiate compulsory military service for both men and women during peacetime.
But Froidevaux’s suggestion is unlikely to apply to foreign Swiss residents – either men or women – who are currently exempt from the draft.
“It is conceivable to extend it to foreigners, but this is difficult for political and legal reasons,” he said.