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Defense Ministry might ease ban on submarine duty for female SDF officers

JIJI

The Defense Ministry is considering assigning female Self-Defense Forces officers to posts in submarines by lifting restrictions on such assignments, ministry sources said.

The move, the sources said Friday, is part of efforts to give women more opportunities and secure personnel for various SDF roles.

If the ministry goes ahead, the move will make almost all job categories in the SDF open to women. Female officers have already boarded submarines on short-distance missions to help the Maritime Self-Defense Force identify issues.

Women account for around 15,000, or some 6.5 percent, of the 230,000 personnel in the SDF, according to the ministry. Its aim is to bump up that ratio to over 9 percent by 2030.

The ministry started removing restrictions on assignments for female officers in 1993, but it has no plans to do so anytime soon for tunnel warfare units and certain posts at special weapons defense units which use chemicals, from the standpoint of maternal health.

The restrictions on submarine jobs stem from the difficulty of creating separate spaces for men and women. Sleeping quarters on the vessels consist of several triple bunk beds facing an aisle. There are no changing rooms and crew members have to change in the hallways.

In fiscal 2019 starting April 1, the MSDF plans to renovate facilities at its submarine training center in Hiroshima Prefecture to prepare toilets and rooms for women.