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A new shape of NS requirements?

Much ink has been spilled on whether women should perform National Service. (“Military NS not in sync with women’s physical and emotional abilities”, Oct 17; “Objective of NS is to bolster defence, not foster equality”, Oct 16)

Communications Manager, Association of Women for Action and Research

Much ink has been spilled on whether women should perform National Service. (“Military NS not in sync with women’s physical and emotional abilities”, Oct 17; “Objective of NS is to bolster defence, not foster equality”, Oct 16)

Perhaps it is useful to look at the other side of the coin. Some men find NS to be a positive experience. For some other people, regardless of gender, the military is not suited to their aptitudes, values and aspirations.

Treating compulsory military service as a single gold standard of citizen belonging ignores the many other ways people can contribute to the strength of our society, for instance, through social services for seniors or the poor, teaching in community settings and civil defence.

When Singapore faced the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak and the haze from the Sumatran forest fires, in neither crisis was a military response necessarily helpful or relevant in ensuring our collective resilience.

Perhaps it is time to rethink the shape of NS. A period of community service and contribution could be required of women and men alike, with military training forming one of several options under the scheme.

Some women find the military fulfilling and have what it takes to make good soldiers, as many female Singapore Armed Forces regulars demonstrate. At the same time, many would not be a good fit, which is just as true of men.

Instead of pegging people to rigid roles based on narrow views of gender, everyone should be given an opportunity to do something for society, in ways that better utilise their potential and serve a wider range of needs.

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