Not justified to use NS to teach women graciousness
I refer to Voices writer Lee Siew Peng’s letter “NS-style skills training will teach women importance of being gracious” (Nov 10). Even if we assume the above argument to be true, imparting graciousness does not justify conscripting 18,000 women per year.
I refer to Voices writer Lee Siew Peng’s letter “NS-style skills training will teach women importance of being gracious” (Nov 10).
Even if we assume the above argument to be true, imparting graciousness does not justify conscripting 18,000 women per year.
What justifies conscription? National security. Without a credible military, Singapore will not be able to protect its sovereignty. To build a credible military given Singapore’s population, conscripts must supplement professional soldiers.
Those who serve national service (NS) sacrifice their freedom and face disruptions to their education and careers. This is justified on the grounds of national survival, not to learn graciousness.
As for why men are conscripted but not women, anyone opposing this must propose a superior alternative:
- Should we conscript both men and women, even though male conscripts already meet Singapore’s defence needs? Although the number of male conscripts is set to decrease by about a third by 2030, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has said that this can be dealt with through improved automation and weapon platforms that use fewer men and changing how national servicemen are trained and deployed.
- Should we conscript citizens by lottery, regardless of gender? This will still be unjust. The injustice inflicted on males will simply transform into injustice inflicted at random.
There is no need to shove unwilling women into NS. Women who volunteer to serve are strongly welcomed to do so.
If Dr Lee wishes to learn graciousness through NS, she herself should join the Volunteer Corps.
I am also alarmed by Dr Lee’s sweeping observations about Singaporeans when she said: “Where it was once honourable, any kind of ‘service work’ is now deemed unacceptable to most Singaporeans.”
This belittles our Singapore Airlines stewardesses, Changi Airport receptionists, our nurses, baristas, hospice staff and many others.
And what kind of condescension towards women is Dr Lee espousing when she suggested that women need NS because many young people “do not seem to have a clue as to what they would like to do in the future”?
While waiting to begin tertiary education, most of my female friends worked in cafes, schools, government agencies, private businesses and many other places that suit their interests. My female friends are more than capable of exploring their career choices and skill sets.
Dr Lee also wrote: “Surely women from different backgrounds also need to learn what being Singaporean means. Call it integration if you wish.”
This incorrectly suggests that Singaporean women do not know what being Singaporean means and are “unintegrated” into their own country.
The “basic skills” that Dr Lee hopes to impart through NS — “foraging, cooking and building shelters” and so on — can be taught to willing parties through courses and co-curricular activities.
Conscripting women to learn these skills will result in enormous unhappiness, expenditure and injustice.
There are plenty of girls around the world who grew into gracious women without NS. Let us not be so quick to champion conscription every time we want to promote a social value.
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