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Sunday, November 01, 2020

Explained: The men-only US military draft facing legal challenges

In the US military, registration with the Selective Service (SS) makes it mandatory for men aged between 18 and 25 to register with the SS in the event that a national emergency requires a rapid expansion of the armed forces.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: March 5, 2020 1:18:50 pm
In the case last year, the judge in Texas ruled that an all-male draft was unconstitutional since women are eligible for combat roles since 2015. (AP photo)

A federal appeals court will consider if the men-only draft in the US military is constitutional before a government commission weighs in on the subject in the coming weeks, The Associated Press reported. Last year, in response to a lawsuit brought forward by the National Coalition for Men (NCM), a federal judge ruled that an all-male draft was not constitutional.

The case in question is one among three cases that are being argued before the panel at Tulane University’s law school in New Orleans. The last time that any young man was drafted into the US army was in 1973.

What is the National Coalition for Men (NCM)?

NCM is a non-profit educational organisation that claims to raise awareness about “the ways sex discrimination affects men and boys”. Military conscription of men alone is one of the issues that the NCM advocates against. “No gender oppression is comparable in magnitude to the deaths of males in war, which includes forced conscription,” it says on its website.

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“Historically, a large percentage of men were drafted before they were old enough to even vote.”

Conscription in the US

In the US military, registration with the Selective Service (SS) makes it mandatory for men aged between 18 and 25 to register with the SS in the event that a national emergency requires a rapid expansion of the armed forces. Failing to register is considered to be a felony and can lead to the imposition of a fine worth over $250,000, imprisonment for up to five years or both.

In the case last year, the judge in Texas ruled that an all-male draft was unconstitutional since women are eligible for combat roles since 2015. In 1981, a Supreme Court ruling had justified the exclusion of women from being conscripted, citing their ineligibility to serve in combat roles, The New York Times reported.

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In their case, NCM argued that the all-male draft violates the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause.

Conscription around the world

According to the Pew Research Center, the US is one of the 23 countries where the military draft is authorised but not implemented. On the other hand, in 60 other countries conscription is legally authorised and practiced in some form or the other. Further, countries including Sudan and Vietnam authorise conscription of women in law but not in practice. Other countries such as Myanmar, Chad, Ivory Coast and Portugal maintain that if they start drafting, they will draft both men and women. Overall, Pew has estimated over 11 countries where conscription is applied to both men and women.

As opposed to the US’s SS, there is the universal service requirement in some countries such as in Israel under which, all of the target population is expected to serve in the armed forces. In Israel, this universal service system applies to both men and women. In some other countries including Norway and Sweden, which have selective systems, conscription is applicable to men and women as well.

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