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Australia lifts ban on women serving on combat frontlines

“The last of the sex discrimination against women in frontline or combat roles will now be removed,” said defence minister.

Image: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri/PA

AUSTRALIA’S GOVERNMENT has approved a measure which will allow women to serve in the armed forces along frontlines of combat.

Seven per cent of positions in the military currently exclude women, including mine disposal, artillery combat and frontline positions. Those restrictions will be removed on a staggered bases over the next five years, according to Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

Smith said today that the “last of the sex discrimination against women in frontline or combat roles will now be removed”:

We have an Australian Army that’s been going for 110 years, an Australian Navy that’s been going formally for 100 years, and an Australian Air Force that’s been going for 90 years, and last night we resolved to remove the final restrictions on the capacity of women to serve in frontline combat roles.

The minster added that the cabinet had the “strong support” of defence forces chiefs. The change means that Australia’s reservation on its ratification of the UN’s Convention Against the Discrimination of Women will now be removed.

“Now all of the roles on the frontline will be determined on the basis of merit, not on the basis of sex,” Smith said.

Australia is committed to its operation in Afghanistan until 2014 and women currently comprise about 10 per cent of the 1,500 Australian troops posted there. The Wall Street Journal reports that Australia is planning a major upgrade of its military which will see it spend more than €36.7 billion on defence over the next two decades.

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