Australia lifts ban on women in military combat

September 28th, 2011 - 1:44 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 28 (IANS) Australia has lifted all restrictions on the roles, including front-line combat, that women can carry out in its armed forces.

“Suitably-qualified” women soldiers will be able to serve in the special forces, BBC reported.

Canada, New Zealand and Israel already allow women in all military roles.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith has said the ban would be lifted immediately but may take up to five years to implement.

Australia’s military has about 59,000 full-time troopers, including 1,500 who are serving in Afghanistan.

As well as combat roles, women will now be eligible to serve in special forces units, if they can meet the entry standards.

Smith said the move was “a logical extension to the very strongly held view in Australian society that all of us are equal irrespective of our backgrounds and irrespective of our sex”.

“From this day forward… no combat roles, no front-line role will be excluded from an Australian on the basis of his or her sex, it will be open to anyone to apply on the basis of merit,” he was quoted as saying.

“This is a significant and major cultural change.”

Critics, however, described the move as premature and a “political gimmick”.

Neil James, head of the lobby group Australian Defence Association, said the government was “jumping the gun” on research currently being carried out by defence officials about women’s abilities in a military context.

“It doesn’t actually give us a lot of confidence that this is anything more than another political gimmick and a distraction,” James told ABC radio.

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