Source: JGSDF

Japan Self-Defense Force To Open More Positions To Women

In an unprecedented move by the Japanese government, the Ministry of Defense has opened up positions in the Self-Defense Force to women that would give them more exposure to direct combat. With the opening of these new positions, women will be allowed to fly attack helicopters and maritime patrol planes. In the Ground SDF, women will also be placed in chemical protection units and will be able to man anti-tank choppers such as AH-1S Cobras and AH-64D Apache Longbows.

Source: JGSDF

This move is a continuation of the government’s decision in November 2016 to give women a larger role in the SDF. In November 2016, the military announced that they would allow women to serve in the Air SDF as pilots for fighter jets and spy planes. While women are still banned from deployment on submarines and from Ground SDF infantry and tank units (which are often caught in enemy crossfire) lifting the ban that prevents women from serving in various positions in the military is largely seen as a wise decision. Robert Dujarric, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University told Quartz,

Hiring women makes a lot of sense... every modern military is expanding opportunities for women. And since Japan is falling into demographic oblivion, finding young men is going to be harder.

Robert Dujarric ー Quartz

Source: JGSDF

Japan’s struggle with its declining population and birth rate is well-known to the world. In a Washington Post article from 2016, it was noted that Japan’s populations had decreased by nearly 1 million people between 2010 to 2015, and by 2050, it is estimated that Japan’s population will plummet to 107 million. With tensions growing between Japan, China, and North Korea, the Japanese government recognizes the need to maintain a strong military.

The idea of maintaining a strong military, however, clashes with the harsh reality that Japan’s population is declining. Closing positions to able-bodied citizens due to gender would be counterintuitive, so naturally, the Japanese government has partaken in an initiative to expand their military.

Source: JGSDF

Currently, there are approximately 13,000 women out of the 230,000 personnel in Japan’s Self-Defense Force, which equates to about 5.7%. Compare this to the United States and Israel where women comprise approximately 13% and 25% of the military, respectively. In Israel, a country known for their relatively “gender-blind” approach to military conscription, 85% of combat positions are open to women and roughly 50% of Israel’s lieutenants are female.

Through these comparisons, we can see that Japan still has a ways to go in regards to leveling the playing field for women in the military, but they are certainly headed in the right direction.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.