Equal Rights for National Defense in the Czech Republic

With the new year a new national defense law came into effect in the Czech Republic – one that marks a change from most such regimes in the Western world in that it no longer discriminates between the obligations of men and women. This development is tracked in a handful of articles in the Czech press – here, here, and here – which soon all started to sound rather alike to me, until I realized that they are basically the same article from CTK, the Czech News Agency! So take your pick, although the first article (from MFDnes) has the best photo of uniformed babes, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Females have already made up a substantial portion of the Czech military’s “manpower,” of course, namely 10% of soldiers and even 25% of the Czech military’s civilian employees. All those occupy their positions voluntarily, or at least as voluntarily as a choice can be when you need a job and one comes up involving you in some aspect of army or air force operations. The thing is, the general trend of Czech military personnel policies rather takes the shine off of this new equal obligation between the sexes, in that it only applies to mobilization in case of a national emergency. True, the new law then holds open the commitment of female personnel to any military activity – in its original version it was only going to direct them to the medical services. On the other hand, in the here-and-now, the old year also saw the final complete elimination of the draft in the Czech Republic (which, naturally, applied only to males).

All the cookie-cutter articles come up with the same two suspects (female) for providing for-and-against reaction to the new law. Zdenka Ulmannová, the “against” spokeswoman, calls it “absurd” and “crazy” but offers no further reasoning behind that opinion than “That’s just something else I have to worry about now.” (Czech specialists out there: Am I right? That’s how I understand her comment Na to se ted tedy musim zamerit.) Ultimately, it all really has more a symbolic feel to it more than anything else, although even that is ironic in view of the Czech Republic’s rather backward reputation when it comes to feminism and women’s rights. In case of true national mobilization – and here various terrorism-scenarios spring to mind either to those with lively imaginations or those who have read Richard A. Clarke’s recent scenario in the Atlantic Monthly (subscription required for the full article) – balancing male versus female rights will likely be the least of the Czech Republic’s problems.

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