Time for women to register for the draft

Israel has a mandatory military service requirement for women. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

After centuries of struggle, American women are finally gaining some traction. Not so long ago, voting, owning property, holding office, and serving in the military were just a few of the rights they were denied.

But today’s women are achieving great things: from innovating in science to leading movements for social justice, from saving lives to running for president. Women are even leading troops and fighting on the front lines in combat.

Yet amidst these historic feats, our government still supports outdated legislation that holds gender as a barrier to national service.

Our draft policies lack recognition of the meaningful ways that women make an impact in the armed forces and propagate an outdated view of the role of women in society, issues which can only be solved by granting all people an equal obligation to defending their country in times of war.

Only when every American, whatever their gender identity, is required to register for the draft can we truly achieve equality regardless of gender.

Women have been excluded from the draft since Congress created the Selective Service in 1917, referring specifically to “male persons” as those required to register with the Service and face the possibility of being drafted into the military during a time of war. But that was a century ago—things have changed.

With the opening of all combat roles to women in December 2015, we must acknowledge the inconsistency between the valuable function of women in military roles and the expectations for service that arise in times of war.

Requiring women to register for the draft would help eliminate this double standard.

If women are granted all the benefits of citizenship during times of peace, they must be equally responsible for defending the nation in a time of war.

Furthermore, discrimination in the draft propagates an offensive false perception of female ability. It sends the message that women are not as capable, strong, brave, or intelligent as men and are, therefore, not as important to the protection of our country.

Though these attitudes prevail in the minds of many Americans, they reflect an outdated view of the female place in society and have no logical basis.

Many U.S. Congressmen expressed this archaic attitude toward the role of women last summer when debating a military policy bill that would require young women to join men in registering for the draft.

In June 2016, the House voted down the Senate-approved bill, causing gender exclusivity in the draft to be upheld for now. Republican senator Ted Cruz echoed the fierce opposition that the bill encountered from conservatives, explaining that the idea made “little sense at all” in his mind.

“I could not in good conscience vote to draft our daughters into the military, sending them off to war and forcing them into combat,” the conservative leader said.

The truth is no one wants any young person, regardless of their gender identity, to be drafted against their will and sent to war. But citing female fragility and our obligation to protect our daughters as justifications for excluding women from the draft is sexist, extremely disrespectful to the many brave women in the military, and unfair to Americans of all genders.

At a time when women are making history in the armed forces, it is unacceptable that our policies value the role of women in the military so much less than that of their male counterparts. Requiring women to register would be another important step down the road to equal rights and equal obligations for people of all genders in the United States.

We have come a long way; it’s time to keep demanding change and finish what we started.