Saudi Arabia Allows Women to Apply for Military Positions

Saudi women attend the 'Short Film Competition 2' festival on October 20, 2017, at King Fahad Culture Center in Riyadh. The rare movie night this week in Riyadh was a precursor to what is expected to be a formal lifting of the kingdom's ban on cinemas, long vilified as vulgar …

Saudi women will be allowed to apply for positions in various branches of the Kingdom’s military for the first time, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense announced over the weekend.

“Women will be able to sign up to join the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services,” Al Arabiya reported on Monday.

Saudi women may now be recruited up to the non-commissioned officer level as soldiers, lance corporals, corporals, sergeants, and staff sergeants, according to the Saudi defense ministry.

To be an eligible recruit in the Saudi military, a woman must be between the ages of 21 and 40 years old, measure 155 centimeters in height (about five feet) or taller, and must not be a government employee. A female recruit must also pass various admission procedures, provide a clean criminal record, and receive medical clearance proving she is physically fit for service. Additionally, a Saudi Arabian woman applying for military service may not be married to a non-Saudi Arabian citizen. She must hold an independent Saudi national identity card and have completed a high school education at a minimum.

The Kingdom’s choice to allow women to apply to the military for the first time is part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 initiative, which launched in 2016 and includes reforms designed to increase the number of Saudi Arabian women working in various industries.

The initiative aims to create 1 million jobs for women in Saudi Arabia by 2030. The rate of female unemployment in Saudi Arabia decreased by 13.9 percent from 2016 to 2020, suggesting that the campaign has positively impacted the Saudi women’s workforce. Female participation in the Saudi labor force increased in 2020 from “25.9 percent in the first quarter to 31.4 percent in the second quarter,” Al Arabiya reported last fall.

Vision 2030 reforms granted women the opportunity to work in Saudi public security services for the first time in February 2018. Women are now allowed to apply for security service positions in Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry, departments of criminal investigations, and state security patrols, including those assigned to the Islamic pilgrimage site in the Saudi city of Mecca.

Saudi Arabia first opened the senior ranks of its armed forces to women in October 2019, when the Kingdom announced that women would be able to serve in the ranks of private first class, corporal, or sergeant.

“With these new laws supporting women’s capabilities and rights as citizens … naturally, they will enter new spheres of work, this is the reflection of a national belief in the equality between women and men,” Haya Al-Muni’i – a member of the Saudi Kingdom’s formal advisory council, known as the Shura Council – told the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat in October 2019 of the reforms.


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