In yet another step towards economic and social reform, Saudi Arabia will allow women to serve in its armed forces.
The conservative kingdom announced on Wednesday that women now have the chance to enlist in military jobs at the Ministry of Defense in the ranks of first soldier, corporal, deputy sergeant, and sergeant.
The ministry put forth a number of conditions for applicants aiming to join the kingdom's army, particularly with regards to age, nationality, as well as physical and professional competence.
The army was previously off-limits for Saudi women, but following the recent announcement, they can now join the ranks of the kingdom's Royal Land Forces, Royal Air Forces, Royal Navy, Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces, and Medical Services for Armed Forces.
To do so, female applicants are required to be 21-40 years old, hold the Saudi nationality from both their parents, prove their good conduct, be medically fit for military service, and meet the ministry's weight and height requirements. Saudi women married to non-Saudi men are precluded from applying for the armed forces, but the ministry did not elaborate on the reasons behind this restriction, according to The Independent Arabia.
Male applicants are required to meet similar conditions as their female counterparts, except for the latter, as there is no restriction against Saudi men married to non-Saudi women.
The ministry noted that female applicants will undergo training in their respective fields before assuming their positions among the armed forces.
Member of Saudi Arabia's Shoura Council, Dr. Iqbal Darandri, not only welcomed the decision but also called for conscription (mandatory military service) to be imposed on both men and women. She explained that women, in particular, should be trained to serve their country and defend it in case of crisis or war.
She went on to say that conscription helps build a person physically and psychologically, in addition to strengthening their sense of patriotism and instilling basic principles such as patience, endurance, sacrifice, and discipline.
According to Dr. Darandri, female applicants should first be trained on basic self-defense skills and the use of light weapons, after which they would be allocated to different departments based on their respective skills and strengths.
Saudi Arabia is gradually opening up more positions for women in professions previously exclusive to men, thus encouraging the former to increase their contribution to the local task force.
During the past two years, Saudi women were granted their right to work at airports and land border-crossing points, take up retail sector jobs, become taxi drivers, etc.
In January, the Ministry for Labour and Social Development issued several directives aiming at improving the work environment for women, including an order for equal pay between men and women.
Last year, Saudi Arabia authorized women to join the Ministry of Interior as part of criminal investigations, drug combat, traffic and road security, security patrols, Haj and Umrah security, along with intellectual and moral guidance.