“They are no longer exotic”

Catholic military chaplaincy calls for more equal opportunities for women in the Bundeswehr. The same opportunities for advancement must be open to them as to men in all military areas.

Catholic military vicar general Reinhold Bartmann said Thursday in Berlin. Among the 180.000 members of the German armed forces, according to his figures, are currently a good 20.000 women, 40 percent of whom are in the medical service. Bartmann spoke at a conference titled "On the Way to Becoming an Inspector General?"

Pronounced skepticism

The military vicar general acknowledged that in the armed forces "the skepticism of men toward female superiors is still pronounced". The performance of female soldiers is being questioned; according to a study, one in two of them experiences sexual harassment. With regard to equal opportunities for women, the Bundeswehr can learn from the experience of other armed forces, Bartmann emphasized.

Hans-Peter Bartels (SPD), the Bundestag's defense commissioner, also called for women to be "nothing exotic and no ornament" in the Bundeswehr. Without women, the volunteer army could not achieve its goals. Bartels regretted that more women than men give up their service in the Bundeswehr prematurely. This, he said, is also due to deficiencies in reconciling work and family life. Fathers among the soldiers would also benefit from more childcare offerings.

Mission statement calls for respect

Former Bundeswehr Inspector General Wolfgang Schneiderhan emphasized the importance of "Innere Fuhrung" in the way men and women interact in the armed forces. This mission statement demands respect for human dignity and civil rights even in service. The commander of the Bundeswehr's Center for Internal Leadership, Major General Reinhardt Zudrop, explained that the Basic Law obliges the Bundeswehr to provide equal opportunities for all people, not just women.

The symposium was organized by the Center for Ethical Education in the Armed Forces, which maintains the Catholic military chaplaincy, as well as the Center for Innere Fuhrung and the Commissioner for the Armed Forces.

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