The new strategy of Spain’s defence ministry is looking to open more special forces roles to women as part of international efforts to tackle terrorism and unconventional warfare.
Spain’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles says the United Nations (UN) has called for more women to help resolve conflicts worldwide. Arabic-speaking women are among those wanted for UN- or Nato-led missions in conflict areas, such as Iraq or Libya, BBC reported.
Robles was visiting Spain’s army command for special operations, where some women have joined elite units earlier under a different program.
At the command centre (MOE) in Rabasa, near Alicante on Thursday, the minister watched a mock assault on a terrorist compound with the aim of seizing intelligence – the kind of raid conducted often to counter-insurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In conflict zones, some jobs are already reserved for women, such as searching women at checkpoints. That is done because in some of conservative, patriarchal societies it can be easier for women to glean intelligence from local women, who may be kept away from foreign men.
In fact, that means that MOE is combining all the special operations capabilities, as they realise more capabilities are needed in asymmetric wars. There is a clear need for women in certain roles, for cultural reasons. In some Muslim countries, for example, it’s difficult to get information from women if you’re a man.
Visiting the MOE in April, Robles pointed “we want to make a significant bid to involve more women in these missions – this is a priority”.
In 1999 Spain opened up most military jobs to women and the proportion of women in its armed forces is now 12.7% – above the Nato average of 11.1%. The defence minister says Spain still needs to recruit many more women; currently, there are nearly 15,300.
But, the situation in SOF units is quite different. Currently, the MOE has a staff of about 1,000, but only about a dozen are women.