Military won’t alter naked bathing rules

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An officer in the Norwegian army who ordered soldiers including two women to bathe naked in a cold moutain lake ended up avoiding any reprimand, and now the military won’t change its rules for hygiene and life in the field either. It all raises issues of gender equality, and what exceptions should be made, just as more women are set to enter military service.

Norwegian women may soon be eligible for the draft, if political momentum towards approval of non-gender compulsory service continues to build. PHOTO: Forsvaret

Women in the military can still be ordered to carry out the same hygiene procedures, which can put them in an awkward position. PHOTO: Forsvaret

State broadcaster NRK reported Tuesday that the military has concluded two rounds of examining the case of soldier Alice Aspelund, who resisted the order to bathe naked along with the men while on field exercises outside Bodø in 2011. She had made it clear the order exceeded her limits for personal privacy, but the officer refused to back down and Aspelund found the situation “very difficult.”

It immediately raised issues of how, or whether, exceptions to rules should be made to accommodate women in the armed forces. The officer was initially reprimanded and fined NOK 2,500 for not bending the rules that all soldiers must wash themselves while out in the field, but he appealed. In 2004, his reprimand was rescinded, which came as a disappointment to Aspelund.

Now the military has concluded that changing the rules would be “the wrong way to go, based on one single episode,” Brigadier Trond Kotte of the military’s personnel division told NRK. Kotte conceded that it means officers won’t be reprimanded in the future if they insist on treating all soldiers equally in the field, also when it comes to bathing outdoors.

Kotte insisted, though, that military brass “took this incident very seriously” and believes it will, in the end, “raise the consciousness” of gender issues. “The naked bathing case has made us more aware of the need for good attitudes and solutions,” he said.

Military attorney Lars Morten Bjørkhold agreed the case raised difficult issues about how to handle field hygiene, noting that it was practised in various ways: “There are many activities that military personnel must carry out, along with the degree to which they affect physical personal integrity.” No changes in favour of firmer guildelines or rules will thus be in place in July, when the first group of young Norwegian women will be called in for compulsory military service. staff

  • John Palmer

    I find the article to be interesting and the country to be anything but boring. This said after a four week visit. As for isolated, geographically it is; politically, I think not.

    • frenk

      Norway today is ‘very’ politically isolated….the Swedes and the Danes turned their backs some time ago due to the fact the Norwegians are protecting their economy from fair competition with the EU. I suspect the only country that Norway has ‘good political engagement’ with is the UK….due to the gas export deals that have been signed over the last couple of years….

      Many people here have political beliefs from the 1950s (an even earlier)….this is a ‘working class culture’….the ‘Peter Pan’ of Europe…..a country with a defunct political system that needs (somehow) to enter the 21st century….ASAP.

    • Dave Smith

      Get a grip ! The place is a socialist / communist backwater that has it`s fingers in almost all aspects of it`s citizens lives . Screwed over at every turn , the population has been brainwashed to such an extent that they robotically blurt ” men , i hverfall vi har det bra har “. Tell a population how lucky they are enough times and they will believe it .
      This country supports inactivity , idleness and lack of ambition with it`s massive social help budget . Naff ! Or is it NAV ?
      Look up Jante Løven . Sums it up nicely .

      • John Palmer

        And for you, get a life

  • Fos Latrit

    Women want equality but only when it’s convenient for them. I think it may be a good idea to explain the rules to new recruits so they know what to expect, but I’m glad they’re not bending them.

  • David DePeal

    In the United States, sexual harassment in the armed forces is a serious problem for both sexes, but particularly for women. Likewise, the US also equates nakedness much more with sexuality than in European countries, so I’m not sure this scenario would work in the US– especially given all the hoopla we are currently experiencing over transgender use of restrooms different than one’s gender assigned at birth. That said, I think co-ed bathing is conducive to creating camaraderie and to be perceived as an equal, and eventually, such attitudes regarding group nakedness will ultimately prevail.