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Swiss army opens combat ranks to women

Swiss soldier Jeannette Sommer (right) and two colleagues in Kosovo: under new reforms, women will be allowed to serve in combat units

(Keystone)

Women are to be admitted to the all-male preserve of combat troops, as part of a series of reforms in the Swiss army. The defence ministry was quoted as saying that the move will do away with gender inequality in the armed forces.

Women volunteers serving in the Swiss army are restricted to certain units, typically those involving support staff such as administration and signals. Some are attached to infantry divisions, but these are only permitted to participate in training exercises and musical bands.

Those who are armed, carry weapons for self-defence only.

But from 2003, all restrictions on women in the armed forces will be abolished, under a series of military reforms approved by the government last Wednesday.

Not only will they be able to serve in traditionally all-male combat units, but they will also be entitled to train as pilots for combat aircraft, such as the F/A-18. At present, the airforce has only two female pilots, and they are restricted to flying training aircraft and helicopters.

The wide-ranging reforms also include a reduction in the number of personnel on active service - to a maximum of 120,000, compared to 360,000 at present.

swissinfo with agencies

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