Currently, all able bodied Swiss men must serve in Switzerland’s military or spend time doing civil service. The obligation begins at the age of 18.
However, the obligation only applies to men. Women can serve but are not required to. An initiative (servicecitoyen.ch), which is planned for 2021, aims to replace the existing system with a broader form of service, that includes the military and civil service, but which is compulsory for both young Swiss men and women.
In an interview on RTS this week, former Swiss army chief Philippe Rebord said that he supports the initiative. He thinks such a system would boost the army. Instead of the current 35,000 recruits there would be 70,000, he said. Like Norway, Switzerland would soon have 20% of women choosing military service. Women have much to offer the army as they do to civil service, said the retired army head.
Noémie Roten, one of the leaders of the servicecitoyen.ch initiative who chose serve in the military, says that the proposed system would allow every citizen to serve their nation in a way they the feel fits best with their talents and aspirations.
Asked why she chose to serve in the Swiss military, Roten explained that it was an important aspect of gender equality for her. In addition, she expressed a desire to be part of the experience of connecting with broader society and to be part of the political conversation around the subject.
In addition to experience in the army and work as a stand-in military judge, Roten has an economics degree from the University of St. Gallen and a master degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She currently works as a journalist at Heidi.news.