London : Women soldiers moved a step closer to get combat roles in the British army from 2016, as the country is considering to allow them to front line fighting following a review of the current ban on female serving in close combat, reports PTI.

 A British Army review of the ban, conducted for the country’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), has concluded that change would not have an “adverse effect” on troop cohesion. It, however, added that more research was needed to assess the physiological demands.  UK defence secretary Michael Fallon said roles “should be determined by ability and not gender”.

He said he hoped to introduce the change “subject to some final research over the next year or so.”      Some officers have reportedly said that male soldiers would feel obliged to protect their female counterparts if fighting together, or that relationships would develop that could be a distraction on the battlefield.  Under current rules, women can serve on the front line, but not where the primary aim is to “close with and kill the enemy”. This means women are not permitted to serve in the infantry or armoured corps.   To join an infantry unit at recruitment level, men have to complete run of 1.5 miles in 12 minutes 45 seconds. They then have to complete an annual fitness assessment which involves carrying 25kg, plus a rifle and helmet, over a distance of just under eight miles in two hours, the MoD said. Women wanting to join a combat unit will have to pass the same fitness tests as men.

They will also have to deal with a belief among some personnel that they do not belong in the job. About 10 per cent of the 156,630 regular British armed forces personnel are women.

Aditi Khanna

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