The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said it is considering increasing its number of female personnel after women's-rights groups accused the ministry of discriminating against women by offering only a small number of places for female high-school graduates to study at military academies.
Acting on an instruction from Premier Yu Shyi-kun, the ministry has activated a task force to study the feasibility of recruiting more women even though the ratio of women in the military is relatively high when compared with some other countries.
The National Defense Management College (NDMC), for instance, has a quota of two girls in its law department, which accepts a total of 14 students.
The arrangement, which went unnoticed until this year when several girls who received top scores in the joint-college entrance examination gave up chances to study at well-reputed civilian universities, and applied instead for the only two places for girls in the law department of the NDMC. As a result, only two of the girls were accepted with one of the acceptees giving up her freshman slot for a third.
Due to these girls, the public's attention was called for the first time to the fact that military academies do not allocate many places for girls. But at the same time military academies are fairly exclusive institutions and they do not admit many boys, either.
It has been the condition for military academies for many years to accept only hundreds of students each per year for lack of huge demands for officers from the three services.
At a regular press conference yesterday, ministry spokesman Major General Huang Sui-sheng (黃穗生) announced that the ministry will consider increasing women personnel in the future but that the decision cannot be made until after an evaluation by a task force activated for the purpose.
* Taiwan's military ipersonnel is 7.3 percent female.
* France's is 7.2 percent.
* Japan's self-defense force is 4.3 percent female.
Huang refuted criticism that the military does not provide women with the same opportunities to work as men.
"The ratio of women personnel in the military is now 7.3 percent. It would be even higher if female civilians who stay in the armed forces as contract workers were taken into consideration," Huang said.
"Such a ratio is by no means low, especially compared with other countries. We have done quite enough in this direction," he said.
Over the past 11 years, the number of women officers and non-commissioned officers has increased to 8,200. There are another 9,098 women in the military who stay as contract workers, according to statistics provided by the ministry.
In comparison, women in Japan's Self-defense Force account for only 4.3 percent of the total, while those in the French military make up 7.2 percent of the total.
The comparison, though in favor of the ministry, might not be able to solve a debate in the military: whether the military has more than enough women personnel or it still has room for more.
Critics are saying, though, that as the ministry spends more time recruiting more women, it might not have time to figure out the right kind of manpower structure it will need in the future.