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Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 13:51 GMT
German army told to recruit women

Tanja Kreil The court upheld Tanja Kreil's complaint

The European Court has ruled that a ban on women bearing arms in the German armed forces is unlawful sexual discrimination.

The court upheld a complaint by Tanja Kreil, a 23-year-old electrical engineer, whose application to join the German Army was rejected by the Defence Ministry in 1996.

The court, the European Union's highest legal body, said laws banning women from combat violated EU sex equality regulations.

It made me feel like I was living in the Middle Ages
Tanja Kreil

"German legislation barring women outright from army jobs involving the use of arms is contrary to the Community principle of equal treatment for men and women," the court said in a statement.

The ruling could force Germany to change its constitution.

'Tremendous relief'

The Luxembourg-based court added that some restrictions on women serving could be accepted.

European Court European Court: Ban is against equal rights
"However, derogations remain possible where sex constitutes a determining factor for access to certain special combat units," the court said.

Last October, the court ruled that the UK did not have to let women into the Royal Marines, where all members have to be ready for hand-to-hand combat.

Ms Kreil, now an electronics engineer at Siemens AG, said the ruling was a "tremendous relief".

She told the Tageszeitung newspaper she was amazed her application to join the army had been rejected solely because she was a woman.

"It made me feel like I was living in the Middle Ages."

She said she still wanted to join the army to work on tanks.


Germany, like most EU countries, relies largely on conscripts. All German men are required to serve 10 months in the army after turning 18, but women are exempted.

Female soldier German women can only serve as medical staff or musicians
Women can only serve in medical units, or work as musicians - there are currently 4,340 women in medical jobs, and 60 musicians.

Even during World War Two, when the Nazis drafted young teenagers and elderly men, women were exempted from combat duty.

Verena Wohlleben, a military expert in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD), said the government would examine whether it could integrate women in the armed forces without changing the constitution.

But a change in the constitution would be desirable, she said.

Angelika Beer, defence policy expert for the Greens party that shares power with the SPD, said she hoped the ruling would also lead to a discussion about ending conscription.

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27 Oct 99 |  UK
Marines 'can ban women'

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