Currently, Switzerland has a system of military conscription that applies only to men. Some would like to see a gender neutral alternative. This week, the organisers of a popular initiative calling for a system of compulsory community service that is applied to both men and women reached the milestone of more than 100,000 signatures, reported RTS.
To call a popular vote or referendum in Switzerland requires at least 100,000 valid signatures. Once the signatures have been validated an initiative moves to the next stage on its way to an official referendum. This week, the organisers of the citizen service initiative submitted 107,764 signatures for verification.
The initiative, organised by a group in Geneva, aims to remove the outdated sexism of the current system. It also aims to extend the the range of community service activities to include tasks undertaken by the department of civil defence, which includes work such as activities aimed at rehabilitating addicts, lifesaving and forest restoration. The organisation calculates that 9% of civil service activity is currently dedicated to environmental protection, a figure it feels is too low given the current challenges in the area.
The organisers also argue that universal community service is central to social cohesion and the future of society. In addition, by including women it will help to solve the problem of a dwindling number of recruits.
However, some groups have spoken out against the idea. GSsA, an organisation against compulsory military service, objects to forcing people to serve and views the plan as flawed.
The Socialist Party has also said it is against the concept. The introduction of poorly paid universal compulsory service will delay education and prevent young people from engaging in voluntary activities of their choice, it said.
The initiative is organised by a group known as Citizen Service launched in Geneva in 2013. If everything goes as the group has planned Swiss voters will be given a chance to vote on the idea in 2026.