12 Pages

Military Women in Peace Operations: Experiences of the Norwegian Battalion in UNIFIL 1978-98

WithKari H. Karamé

For 20 years Norway participated in the United Nation s peacekeeping forces in South Lebanon. On average there were 30 women in each contingent, which consisted of up to 900 persons. During the first years they served in the medical corps, logistics and staff units. In 1984 full gender equality was introduced in the Norwegian armed forces, and from then on a growing number of women also served in military posts in South Lebanon. In 1992, a Swedish Major-General took over as force commander. One of his initiatives was to recommend the exclusion of women from most military functions, a decision based on the assumption that they could not perform their duties because of the presence of Muslim men. This initiated an intense discussion in Norway, revealing some of the contradictions that may occur within a multinational force between the intentions of UN headquarters, different nations' policies and the reality in the field. It also presented an opportunity to debate women's contribution to peace operations.