What is a civil right? Civil rights are a class of rights and freedom protecting individuals from unwanted action from government, as well as private organizations. One civil right that has raised concerns and has been considered controversial is women in the military. There are many women who serve in our military; unfortunately, many of these women have faced discrimination and harassment during their times of service. What some may not think about is how far women have come since World War II.
There was a policy that was once created, and then later terminated due to its controversial content. This was a policy which punished pregnant soldiers serving in Iraq. According to the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (2009), a policy was enforced by the U.S. Army which included pregnancy as an offense that was listed in a General Order. Any female soldier that faced this offense was to face a court martial, as well as jail time. This policy was put into place in November, 2009 and was part of another order that banned any sexual contact with Iraqis and third party nationals. Senators Boxer (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Mikulski (D-MD), and Shaheen (D-NH) asked Army Secretary John McHugh to drawback the this policy. The senators sent a letter to Major General Cucolo that stated, “We can think of no greater deterrent to women contemplating a military career than the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished simply for conceiving a child.”
I am pleased to see that this policy is no longer in existence. This policy not only brought down the morale of our women soldiers, but also discriminated against women and their right to conceive a child. Although the women were having sexual relationships during their tour of duty, they should be punished or be concerned of their careers possibly terminated because they are pregnant. If the female soldiers were having a consensual relationship with male soldiers, then perhaps they should have reprimanded the male soldiers for engaging in such activity that may possibly affect the female’s tour of service.
In an article written by Yeager (2007), the topic discussed is how women in the military, no matter what their rank is, are continuously having to prove themselves, that they are just able as men to handle the job and to do it right. Women make up over fourteen percent of enlisted personnel, and almost sixteen percent of officers. This is a marked increase from over one percent of women enlisted in military back in 1973, when the draft ended and the new recruitment goals for women were set.
One of the things that I learned from this article was enlisted women have different physical standards than men. For an Army fitness test, a twenty-two year old man is required to complete seventy-five pushups, eighty sit-ups, and run two miles in thirteen minutes. The women soldiers are required to do forty-six pushups, eights sit-ups, and run two miles in fifteen and a half seconds.
Another piece of information I learned was how the promotional system really worked. The board that promotes enlisted members is given equal opportunity goals. This designed to ensure that the number of woman and/or minorities promoted in each group of officers reflects the group representation in the promotional pool. These guidelines urge the board members to not penalize the candidates due to what they may lack in job performance, such as combat assignments (Yeager, 2007).
Military women continue to make great strides while serving our country. These women are continuing to increase their positions in the military. As of 2005, statistics showed that officer and enlisted women on active duty increased from thirteen to fifteen percent. This also showed the number of active-duty female officers had increased in several positions considered as nontraditional, such as engineering, tactical operations, supply and procurement. This also holds true for women who are enlisted, in areas of tactical operations, supply and procurement. Seeing how these women achieve these higher positions in the military has the Department of Defense looking to improve ways to recognize positive contributions and to improve the quality of life for the women’s families and their families. The Department of Defense is working to improve its process to provide family-friendly programs, such as flexible work arrangements, employee empowerment, and a workforce free of discrimination (Williams, 2005).
According to Faucette (2008), there have been cases that have gone before the federal court that have affected public policy for women in the military. In one case, United States v. Virginia 518 U.S. 515 (1996), the Supreme Court declared the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) single-sex education policy unconstitutional. There were claims that women were not well suited for VMI’s military training style of education. Justice Ginsberg responded to this stating, “Such classifications may not be used as they once were, to create or perpetuate the legal, social, and economic inferiority of women.” This type of equal protection applies to only public institutions and publically funded institutions. Also, the Court decided that public single-sex institutions could survive scrutiny as long as the state offers function equivalents for either sex.
In another federal case, Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57 (1981), one practice was placed under scrutiny was the authorization for the President of the United States to require selective service registration of males, but not females. The Supreme Court held that the practice was related to the purpose of facilitating recruitment. Because women were excluded from combat, Justice Rehnquist found that men and women are not considered as similar individuals and cannot be compared for purpose of discrimination. The Supreme Court did not, however, address whether or not the practice of excluding women from combat is constitutional. This was an omission that many people have greatly criticized (Faucette, 2008).
As time goes on, I believe that women will still need some protection, but not as much they need more than 10 years ago. Many women that are representing our country have earned more important roles in the military. Although it has been a difficult road for many of these women, they have proved themselves time and time again. They have been able to represent our country well, and have shown they are able to handle the more difficult and dangerous jobs that male soldiers are responsible for.
Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (2009). Women Veterans. Retrieved April 10, 2010 from http://www.bpwfoundation.org/i4a/pages
Faucette, J. (2008). Sex Discrimination and Equal Protection. Retrieved from http://www.gender-equality-law.suite101.com
Williams, R. (2005). Women Rising to Higher Positions in the Military. Retrieved from http://usmilitary.about.com/od/womeninthemilitary/a/dodwomen.html
Yeager, H. (2007). Soldiering Ahead (Women in the Military). Current, 496(6), 19. Doi: A1702527002