BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
 Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 22:15 GMT 23:15 UK
Foreign Legion to admit women
French Foreign Legion
The Legion are famed for toughness and iron discipline
The French Foreign Legion, one of the world's most legendary fighting forces, is to allow women into its ranks for the first time.

The move follows an order by the French defence ministry, which wants to double the number of women in its ranks over the next 20 years.

It's true, there is reluctance in the Legion, it's quite normal because this is not a normal evolution for them, but mentalities evolve

Ministerial adviser Christine Tiche
The decision has caused a flutter in the Legion, which has been a bastion of machismo since its creation in 1831.

"It's true, there is reluctance in the Legion," ministerial adviser Christine Tiche told the Reuters news agency. "It's quite normal because this is not a normal evolution for them, but mentalities evolve."

Women in army

Women currently comprise only 9.1% of the French armed forces, but Defence Minister Alain Richard wants to take the figure up to 20% by 2020.

His decision to allow women into the Legion has now brought down the off-limits military jobs for women to two - submariner, and member of the anti-riot force of the French gendarmerie.

A French Legion soldier in Somalia
The Legion have fought for France all over the globe
It is not known, though, how many women would be inducted into the Legion - which has 7,800 soldiers drawn from 138 countries - and where they will serve.

"I don't see metaphysical problems if they serve in the headquarters," defence ministry spokesman Jean Francois Bureau told Reuters, adding that the women could not however be barred from combat duties.

'Men without a past'

The Legion is famed for toughness and iron-fisted discipline, and has one of the toughest selection procedure.

Yet it has no lack of volunteers.

At present, the force attracts seven candidates for each job it has to offer - and pays a recruit about $1,200 a month.

Legionnaires are sometimes referred to as "men without a past" because they are given a new identity by the Legion.

There are Legions garrisons in France and in spots as far as the Red Sea republic of Djibouti and the jungles of French Guyana on the South American coast.

Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes