An online petition is seeking amendments to Taiwan’s Act of Military Service System that would include "citizens that aren't male" in the country’s compulsory military service.

The petition was launched on Sept. 13 and has since reached the threshold of 5,000 signatures. The government is required to respond by Nov. 24.

The petition says that “Article 1 of the Act of Military Service System reads ‘In accordance with the Law, the male citizens of the Republic of China are obligated to take military service,’” which, “clearly conflicts with” the principles of gender equality stipulated in the Constitution.

The Act says “the physical differences between males and females create different social roles for them,” to explain why the Act is not unconstitutional. However, the petition says that some females do meet the standards of physical condition for serving in the military.

The petition concludes by saying that the Constitution regulates serving in the military as an obligation based on the needs of national defense, which it says “should not be ‘male national defense.’”

Taiwan has sought to abolish conscription, but the program has faced a series of delays due to lack of volunteers and has yet to be fully implemented. The petition says that before it does so, people of genders other than male should be included in the compulsory military service.

Comments under the petition read, “Females should be required to serve in the military, or else it is gender discrimination,” and “This is true gender equality.”

An op-ed in the Chinese-language United Daily News questions whether requiring women to serve in the military would change the “masculine” military culture and improve gender equality within the armed forces.

The author, Chien Wei-hsuan (簡維萱), uses Israel as an example. He says Israeli sociologist Orna Sasson-Levy has found during research that while men and women are required to serve in the Israeli military, male soldiers still hold the most authority.

“Even if women are in the army, they are rarely in positions that require them to be on the battlefield,” says Chien. “At least 30 percent do secretarial or administrative work.”

According to a 2015 National Defense report, there were 17,000 female soldiers serving in Taiwan's military as of August 2015, or 10.16 percent of the total.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole