Defence secretary Michael Fallon has announced an end to the army’s ban on women serving in front-line infantry roles.
Allowing women on the frontline would put UK policy in line with some countries like Australia and the US. Earlier this month the US announced it would open all jobs in combat roles to women following several years of research.
The proposed changes for the British armed forces would mainly apply to roles in the Infantry, Royal Marines, and Royal Armoured Corps and The Royal Air Force Regiment.
Fears have been raised that women will be unable to cope with the physical demands of close ground combat operations. Fallon told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme:
“Women can fight just as effectively as men. There’s a small piece of work to be done, but I think army selection should be done on the basis of ability, from now on, and not on the basis of gender.”
Fallon denied that training regimes would be made less tough:
“It’s not weakening at all. I think we can improve the way we conduct physical training. We have got to make sure that the physical training and the tests involved don’t discriminate against women, but equally don’t damage the operational effectiveness of any unit. We need to make sure that the training is properly adapted to the different physiology of women and we do as much as possible to protect their long-term health and safety.”
More was written in an earlier article, analysing the roles played by women in combat.