Edited to add: calling Ukraine “the Ukraine” hearkens back to a time when Russia illegally annexed Ukraine and added “the” to signify it was a subordinate region. Now aware of that history, I have altered this post to use Ukraine instead of “the Ukraine”. The error is mine.
On May 11th, 2015, 74 000 Lithuanians between the ages of 19 and 26 were informed that their bodies would be deployed to serve the good of the nation. The women were ordered to discontinue all birth control and prepare to give birth to new citizens to replace the ones that would be lost. The men were ordered to prepare themselves to be lost. Finland followed suit, ordering 1.8 million of their 5.5 million population to prepare themselves for national, mandatory service either as cannon fodder or new citizen incubators. Ukraine intends to draw 200 000 citizens from 25 to 60 years of age. Sweden, Denmark and Norway are expected to make similar announcements in the days to come.
The Nordic countries consistently rank at the very top of scales that measure gender equality, and their fair-minded approach to patriotic duty in the face of military threat is one of the reasons. These countries understand that equality is not just a word, it’s something you do. Their enlightened approach to gender equality extends into every aspect of their lives, including the obligation to face physical hardship, psychological stress, disability, pain and even death.
In a moving series of portraits, Lithuanians Beata Tiskevic-Hasanova and Neringa Rekasiute, captured the reaction of conscripted men and women to the announcement that they would be randomly selected to put their bodies and lives on the line for their country.
Here are five of those men (the rest can be seen here):
The men shed tears for themselves, for their lost opportunities, their lost ability to determine for themselves the course of their lives, but they understand that they must make sacrifices to ensure the survival of their society and way of life. Those sacrifices are made easier with the knowledge that their sisters will face a different, no less emotionally harrowing ordeal of their own. They will be used to breed new citizens to replace the citizens Lithuania will inevitably lose if war comes to pass. Some of those women will die carrying out their patriotic duty, although not in any numbers even approaching the rates the men will die. In 2008, the maternal mortality rate for Lithuanian women was 16 deaths for every 100 000 births. The sacrifices of the women will be less, but there is comfort in knowing that the burden will fall, at least in part, fairly on both women and men.
Here are the women reacting to the news they face birth conscription.
File not found? That’s because it doesn’t exist. The burden will not fall in any way, shape, or form, on the young women of Lithuania, Ukraine, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark or any other country in the West. It turns out that equality, for these women, is not something you do.
It’s just a word.
Those men from Lithuania, confronting their own deaths, were called “cowards”, “unmanly” and “disgraceful”, for wondering why the burden is theirs, and theirs alone. In Finland, the bubbly Ombudsman for Minorities Eva Biaudet sees nothing wrong with only men facing obligations to the nation.
Translation (from Finnish original):
Question for Eva:
I’ll be joining military service in next January. As you’re known as an advocate of equality, I’d like to ask you how the principle of equality is actualized in the fact that compulsory military service is required only from men, and not also women?”
Answer from Eva:
“Yes, nowadays also women have the opportunity to participate in military service, and I know there has been discussion that it has however been made fairly difficult for them. For example, the medical pre-examination requires a fee, when with boys it’s part of the package.”
“But yes, looks like the situation is that there isn’t that much interest among girls. So I think our system is pretty good, when, after all, only half of the conscription-age people go through military service.”
“So I think there’s no need to change the situation.”
There isn’t much interest among girls in staggering under the weight of their dying friends on blood-soaked battlefields? You don’t say. How much interest do you imagine boys have in doing this? David Garrett, writing at Return of Kings, suggests that women could be conscripted to provide care to the elderly, but what risk is present in that scenario? What sacrifice of body and mind is required?
Many might argue that women should be conscripted in exactly the same way that men are conscripted, but there are good arguments that such a literal approach would end up costing more men’s lives. Men would find it hard to overcome their instincts to protect women. Many women are simply not physically able to protect men, or physically carry them out of danger, meaning those men would die. All-women units might be a solution, but I like my solution better, quite frankly, because of how profoundly it changes the conversation about reproductive rights and gender.
The Birth Draft.
Conscript men to the army, and for every man entered into the draft and deployed, a woman will be drafted to give birth. If his body is disposable, a commodity the state can use to carry out national security for the good of all surviving citizens, then so is hers. Men are stronger, faster and bigger – the physical requirements a ground force needs. Women are able to give birth to new citizens, the physical requirements a nation needs to continue to exist.
There is no need for women to actually parent the children they give birth to, if they do not wish to do so. Families older than the draft age can adopt the infants and do their part, too. If men who have served their time face a second round of conscription, then women who have been drafted for birth will also face another draft round.
Logistically, I don’t see a problem with this. If we have the mechanism to sort through the entire citizenry to select men to die, and we do, that same mechanism can be used to select eligible women to face a birth draft. How to select the fathers? Now that is an interesting conversation! Do fathers have custody rights? Sure! Why not? Let’s be as bubbly as Miss Eva!
Let’s make this the new face of patriotism.
Let’s do equality.
Lots of love,