Updated: 26-Mar-2002 Committee on Women in NATO Forces

Special Edition




The integration process of women into the Spanish Armed Forces started in 1988 following a regulation introduced to comply with the no-gender discrimination principle established in the Spanish Constitution.

In the beginning, they were only allowed to serve as officers in twenty-four different corps and services and they had to wait until 1992 to be allowed to join the Armed Forces as soldiers and sailors, with some exceptions like Special Forces units. Following the Law on Military Personnel, approved in May 1999, they are able to serve in all posts without any restriction, including combat functions.

In the Spanish Armed Forces, there are no specific female units and there is no ceiling regarding the percentage they can represent in the total numbers.


Professional military personnel in the SAF are divided into three categories: Career personnel, complementary personnel, and professional soldiers/sailors. There are also three categories of Reserve Personnel: Temporary, voluntary, and compulsory.

Women serve in the Army, Navy and the Air Force. The Common Corps serve the three Services and include Corps such as Finance, Legal, Music and Medical. Servicewomen are subject to the same rigors, regulations and rules of discipline as their male counterparts.

Now that compulsory service (which only affected men) has been suspended, the principle of equality in the Armed Forces is being applied with all its consequences and any professional difference between the sexes has been eliminated.

General Policies

Women and men serve under the same equality principles. They are allowed to serve in all the military posts, including combat functions.

There are specific regulations concerning women in areas such as uniform, accommodation and maternity healthcare in order to achieve effective equality.
Among those specific regulations developed to promote the attraction and retention of women we can highlight the following:

Maternity protection: According to the 1999 Law on Military Personnel, if a woman is pregnant at the time of the selection process, she can do all the tests except the physical ones and keep the scores for one year (two if she becomes pregnant again the next year) only having to pass the physical tests, when she reapplies.

Should a woman become pregnant during her stay in the Armed Forces, she can apply for a shift to a less demanding job during her pregnancy period.

Parental leave: Parental leave covers a period of sixteen weeks, during which the member receives a full salary.

In addition, until the child is nine months old, they have the right to enjoy one hour off per day that can be divided into two halves or substituted by cutting half an hour off the daily working period. They are also entitled to enjoy up to three years leave without salary for childcare, holding the assigned post for the first year.

Disciplinary rules: Disciplinary regulations exist which consider a major offence to be any actions which are contrary to the sexual freedom of individuals, including sexual harassment, a serious offence is said to have occurred if those same actions are committed against an individual of the same or lower rank, taking advantage of the rank or seniority in service.

Lodgings: Because the Spanish Armed Forces did not have any women until 1988, some lodging facilities had to be adapted to accommodate them. This process is almost complete; only some minor details remain to be fixed in small units or assignments, like small ships, in which it is difficult to find the necessary privacy. As a general rule, all the lodging facilities are separate for each sex except during the cases in which, due to special situations like exercises or field training, they must share the same facilities.


1992 was the year when women were allowed to join all the ranks in the Armed Forces. It is important to highlight this fact because the progression of the integration process was very slow up until that date. Before, women could only apply as officers and the percentage of women remained very low.

Nowadays, women can apply for each and every post in the Armed Forces and there is no limit as to the rank they can reach. A career profile is exactly the same for men and women.

As of today, the highest rank among women in the Armed Forces is Captain, but this is due to the fact that the promotion among the first ranks is only based on the seniority criteria.


Since 1992, the percentage of women applying to join the Armed Forces has continually increased and during the last recruitment campaign for soldiers and sailors, in July of this year, this figure rose to 27 percent of the applicants.

Currently, the total figure of women in the Armed Forces is 9.983, which represents 8,2 % of the total strength.

The percentage of women among soldiers and sailors is 12,8 % and among the commanding officers and NCOs, is 1,5 %. By services, women represent 8,4% of the Army, 8,1% of the Navy, 6,8% of the Air Force and, 12,2% of the Common Corps. These numbers are similar to the percentages of every service in the Armed Forces with the slight difference that women make up a smaller percentage of the Air Force and the Common Corps.


Although women are recruited based on the same process used for their male counterparts, some measures have been taken to facilitate the integration of women into the Spanish Armed Forces by way of positive discrimination. For example, differences are established in the physical conditions generally required for men and women wishing to join the forces or remain in service, except in the case of those units in which the physical condition of the soldier or sailor is of paramount importance. This includes, for example, special operations units, parachutists, divers, etc, where men and women must fulfil the same physical criteria (the physical tests and scores must be the same).


The training for all the different specialities in the Armed Forces involves the same process for men and women. Soldiers follow two different training phases: the basic phase and the specific phase.

During the basic military training phase, which is two months long and is the same for all the branches, the new recruits receive information pertaining to the military structure, legal framework of the Armed Forces, physical and military training and, above all, they have the opportunity to adapt themselves to the military way of life.

After the basic military training, recruits receive the specific training, which is different for each speciality. This phase covers a period ranging from one month for the less demanding jobs, to ten months, for the most specialised ones.

In the case of the NCOs and the officers, the training is quite different. Once they pass the selection process, they go to the different academies and follow a comprehensive training process covering the basic and specific aspects of their function. This training lasts between one and five years, depending on the branch, speciality and type of contract they apply for.


A significant step in the integration process took place in 1993, when the first woman deployed to the Former Yugoslavia as a member of SFOR. Since then, women have participated in all of the peace operations to which Spain has contributed.

Recent and Projected Developments

An agreement between the Ministry of Defence and the Institute of Women to promote and facilitate the integration process has been accepted by both institutions and is going to be signed in the near future.

The political decision to create childcare facilities in military units has already been taken and the military is currently drafting agreements with different regional governments and institutions to set them up as soon as possible. It is hoped that these facilities will provide military families with the necessary help they need to combine their professional duties and family care.


The integration process of women into the Spanish Armed Forces has not faced significant problems and the MOD continues working to develop and define policies regarding this issue.

National Co-ordination Office

POC Ms. Eugenia Bellver Moreira
MOD Spanish Delegation co-ordinator
Paseo de la Castellana 109
28071 - Madrid
Tel: +34-91-395-5497
Fax: +34-91-395-5132
E-mail: bellver@oc.mde.es

National Delegate to the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces

Captain Ana Cebrian Carrasco,
Air Force
Cuartel General Del Aire/S.E.A. 015
C/ Romero Robledo, 8
28008 - Madrid
Tel: +34-91-544-2411
Fax: +34-91-549-0350
Email: anitama@ea.mde.es

Go to Homepage Go to Index