by Caitlyn Tierney
If you are a male turning 18 this year, you’re up. Time to register for Selective Service, a federal government program that can draft men to military combat. If a draft is called, men ages 18 to 25 would be chosen by a random lottery, then checked for physical and mental ability before being sent into combat, according to sss.gov.
But now it’s not only men that can enter combat. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced the end of the direct ground combat exclusion rule for women in January, commenting, “If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job, then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed, color, gender or sexual orientation.” The decision has opened up about 184,000 combat arms professions to women, according to defense.gov.
While lifting the ban of direct combat exclusion for women is a huge step for gender equality, the lack of change in the US Selective Service restrictions seems to take a step backward.The sole legal basis for the exclusion of women from registration was their inability to be allowed into direct combat, which has been void since January. Limiting registration to only men makes a national draft even more archaic than it already is.
Denying women registration means if a draft were to occur, it would be all male, defeating the purpose of ending the combat exclusion rule for women. What’s the point of having equal rights on paper if they aren’t put into effect?
In fact, the National Coalition for Men (NCFM) pointed out this inequality by filing a lawsuit against the US Selective Service System that challenged the legality of requiring only males to sign up for the draft. The NCFM’s complaint alleges that Selective Service’s requirement that only males must register violates the rights of both men and women to equal treatment under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, which protect citizens from discrimination by federal and state governments, according to ncfm.org. The NCFM called for the Selective Service to either require both men and women to register for the draft, or to require neither.
There are penalties for men who refuse to register, such as fines up to $250,000, five years in prison and a denial of eligibility for federal and state benefits, according to ncfm.org. These penalties are nonexistent for women, despite their ability to voluntarily join the military.
The idea of keeping women from combat is as outdated as the nationwide draft. With equal rights comes equal responsibilities, and it’s frankly wrong to only require one gender to register while completely exempting the other.