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Historisk tidskrift 134:1 • 2014

Innehåll (Contents) 2014:1

Uppsatser (Articles)

Plikt och undantag. Vapenfrilagstiftningen och det manliga medborgarskapet i Sverige 1965–1978

Helena Ekerholm

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Duty and exception: Non-combatant legislation and the conditions of men’s citizenship in Sweden 1965–1978

In countries where military conscription has been in force such service has been defined as a masculine duty as opposed to feminine caring and life giving duties. Conscientious objectors not only question a societal contract of duties and civil rights; they also challenge a politically hegemonic masculinity by opting out of one of its main homosocial arenas. This article investigates the changes made to non-combatant conscription service legislation and how it was discussed and designed as a condition for male citizenship in Sweden 1965–1978.

In 1963, the Social democrats and the Liberals demanded changes in the restrictive non-combatant conscription legislation adopted during World War II. Critics regarded the connection of the non-combatant services to the armed forces as too manifest. New legislation was introduced in 1966. A state board was established to evaluate requests for civil service, transferring evaluation from the military to the civilian sector. The non-combatant service areas were expanded in order to take individual requests into consideration, without compromising the need for conscripts within the total national defense. Members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused unconditionally, were controversially exempt from all service, as they were deemed unfit, comparable to alcoholics and anti-socials.

A notable increase of ethical and political non-combatant applications in the last years of the 1960s and early 1970s proved challenging to the 1966 legislation. In 1973 a new governmental commission was appointed to propose changes. One problem was the application evaluation board’s partiality towards religious objectors and the nature of the proceedings, which were criticized for being too intrusive, thus clashing with the objectors’ civil rights. In 1978 the approved service sectors were further expanded into the civilian sector, for example by allowing environmental work, school assistance and service with the Red Cross. The legislative changes indicate that the link between conditioned male citizenship and military service was weakened, when challenged by the non-combatants’ alternative masculinities.


Sweden, non-combatant conscription, conscientious objection, masculine citizenship, hegemonic masculinity, 1960s, 1970s