In recent decades, many countries around the world have been increasing the share of women in their armed forces.
In Argentina, women are playing an increasingly important role in the army, holding many senior positions. However, gender equality in the military still lags behind some other Latin American countries.
Dr. Alicia Amato is currently the highest-ranking woman in the Argentine Armed Forces. She is a colonel, which immediately precedes the rank of general.
But the beginning of her military career 30 years ago, she faced major obstacles.
“When I came to work in this hospital, I was asked to examine a sub-lieutenant. He was one rank lower than me, and said he would never take off his clothes in front of me. He was shocked that nobody told him women had been allowed into the army,” says Col. Alicia Amato.
Colonel Amato is proud of her career – and says combat training in no way makes a woman less feminine.
"Femininity is part of being a woman. It’s in her hormones, just like masculinity is for men. But a woman can find herself in a combat situation – and here we have to be prepared for that, like all other service personnel. There is no difference.”
Today 11 percent of the Argentine military are females - which is actually less than in some other South American countries, such as Uruguay, where 25 percent of soldiers are female.
Besides, in both Uruguay and Venezuela, women are sent on combat missions. The Argentine government also plans to implement this practice.
“Women do not meet some medical and physical standards, they are not allowed to handle certain types of weapons. Now these standards are being modified so that people can serve in the army regardless of sex,” says Sabina Frederic from Argentine Ministry of Defense.
Dr. Frederic, who headed a state agency created to monitor the integration of women in the army, explained the obstacles that many still find.
“Once I was talking to an army officer. He told me: “You see, women get pregnant. And what if you have to travel, for example, on board a military ship? What if you get pregnant right there? And I answered - of course, that is a special situation. But imagine, a man can have a heart attack or appendicitis. It is also a special situation and he will be left ashore. Let’s not exaggerate,” says Sabina Frederic.
Still many service personnel say the presence of women in the army makes them act and speak with more respect and tact.
To date, the Argentine Armed Forces have sent women on risky UN missions in Haiti and Cyprus.