Russia’s human rights ombudsman says excluding women from universal military conscription is a violation, and has promised to address the issue in the near future.
“Maybe I will not get support from everyone here, but I think that our girls’ right for conscription service as privates is infringed. They cannot get permission for this and this is wrong,” Tatyana Moskalkova said as she spoke at the Terra Scientia international educational youth forum.
The official did not specify whether she wanted to make the one-year conscription service obligatory for female citizens, or whether they should simply be allowed to serve if they want to.
Moskalkova also said the government should offer more support to military pensioners, and to widows and orphans of deceased servicemen.
The Defense Ministry commented on the ombudsman’s words on Thursday, telling Zvezda TV channel that the manning of forces is currently accomplished with conscripted recruits and contract servicemen, and that women’s rights were not being infringed upon.
The ministry added that conscription for men is a duty, not a right, and that women can join the forces voluntarily and reach any rank – from private soldier to general.
The ministry also stated that Russia currently has about 45,000 females in the military, most of whom serve in communications troops, logistics units, and in military schools. The total number of active military servicemen is currently about 830,000.
Russian law obliges all male citizens aged 18-27 to serve in the military for one year. Exceptions are allowed for people with health problems, single providers with pensioner parents or small children, and a few other groups.
According to new rules adopted in early 2016, citizens summoned for one-year of compulsory service now have the right to become contract soldiers straight away, but for double the term. This is part of a larger reform started in 2008 and aimed at a full transition to professional military forces in the future.
In April 2015, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told reporters that for the first time in Russian history, the number of contract servicemen had exceeded the number of conscripts – 300,000 to 276,000.
However, according to public opinion polls, about 58 percent of Russians believe authorities should not abolish universal conscription, while 37 percent say they would prefer fully professional military forces.