Affirming Gender Equality: The Challenges Facing the South African Armed Forces


Heinecken, Lindy. 2002. “Affirming Gender Equality: The Challenges Facing the South African Armed Forces.” Current Sociology 50 (5): 715–28.

Author: Lindy Heinecken


In the wake of constitutional reforms, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been compelled to implement full gender equality as part of their affirmative action programme to correct past gender and racial imbalances within the ranks. In this article, the challenges this poses for the SANDF are discussed. A theoretical overview of the various feminist positions on women in the armed forces is provided and related to current debates and policy decisions on gender equality in South Africa. This is followed by a discussion of the various factors that have influenced the participation of women in the South African armed forces and the potential impact increasing numbers of women may have on military effectiveness. Recent empirical findings are used to demonstrate how military, societal and cultural factors impact on the attitudes of women, and towards women serving in the SANDF. In conclusion, as women soldiers prepare to make peace rather than war in Africa, some of the challenges they face in a society and on a continent where they themselves have become the subjects of violence, are deliberated.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Equality/Inequality, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2002

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