Denmark plans to expand military draft to women for the first time and extend service terms


COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark wants to increase the number of young people doing military service by extending conscription to women and increasing the time of service from 4 months to 11 months for both genders, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Wednesday.

“We do not rearm because we want war. We are rearming because we want to avoid it,” Frederiksen told a press conference. She said the government wants ”full equality between the sexes.”

Denmark currently has up to 9,000 professional troops on top of the 4,700 conscripts undergoing basic training, according to official figures. The government wants to increase the number of conscripts by 300 to reach a total of 5,000.

The country is a member of the NATO alliance and a staunch supporter of Ukraine in its war against Russia’s invasion.

Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen stressed that “Russia does not pose a threat to Denmark.”

“But we will not bring ourselves to a place where they could come to do that,” Løkke Rasmussen said.

All physically fit men over the age of 18 are called up for military service, which lasts roughly four months. However, because there are enough volunteers, there is a lottery system, meaning not all young men serve.

In 2023, there were 4,717 conscripts in Denmark. Women who volunteered for military service accounted for 25.1% of the cohort, according to official figures.

Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said the new system would require a change in the law, which he said will happen in 2025 and take effect in 2026.

The security policy situation in Europe “has become more and more serious, and we have to take that into account when we look at future defense,” Lund Poulsen said. “A broader basis for recruiting that includes all genders is needed,” he said, adding it will create “a more versatile and more complete defense.”

Under the plan for which there likely is a majority in the Danish parliament, conscripts will first spend five months in basic training, followed by six months in operational service along with supplementary training.

In 2017, neighboring Sweden instituted a military draft for both men and women because the Swedish government spoke of a deteriorating security environment in Europe and around Sweden. The Scandinavian country had previously abolished compulsory military service for men in 2010 because there were enough volunteers to meet its military needs. It never had a military draft for women before.

Norway introduced a law in 2013 applying military conscription to both sexes.

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