“It’s everyone’s responsibility in an egalitarian society,” said Social Democratic defence policy spokesperson Anders Karlsson to the TT news agency.
As the number of Swedes entering compulsory military service declines, the current government wants to scrap the current system altogether in favour of a volunteer fighting force made up of contracted employees.
Throughout all its years in power, the Social Democrats never made conscription compulsory for women.
The party last examined the issue in 2004, but according to Karlsson, who represents his party in the Riksdag’s committee on defence, the time wasn’t right.
But five years later, the Social Democrats believe attitudes have matured somewhat and in its recently presented defence policy bill, the party proposes not only that Sweden continue with mandatory military service, but also that it be made completely gender-neutral.
“It entails that everyone born in a given year, which is about 100,000 people, registers through a computer. Of those, approximately 30,000 people would be called to a two-day physical inspection and then 10,000 to 12,000 people are conscripted,” Karlsson explained.
“But it’s not about forcing women to join, but choosing those which are best suited and those are hardly people who do want to [join].”
But the political opposition is split on the issue, with the Left Party supporting the Social Democratic proposal, while the Green Party (Miljöpartiet) rejects the idea in favour of completely voluntary service.
A government commission examining conscription in Sweden, which is set to present its final recommendations on June 15th, is currently examining how the Armed Forces could be staffed voluntarily.
A Moderate Party representative on the commission, Rolf K. Nilsson, disagrees with the Social Democrats’ suggestion.
“It’s unfortunate that the Social Democrats are digging themselves a hole on the question of compulsory military service,” he said.
In the commission’s interim report, all the political parties were in agreement that the legislation should be gender neutral.
But now what separates the Social Democrats from the other parties is whether or not conscription should be voluntary.
“We said in our interim report that we want to have as broad an agreement as possible, so it’s too bad that they’ve now locked themselves in [to this position],” said Nilsson.