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First female Anzac soldier killed on duty

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Ed Knight
WVoN co-editor 

The first female combat soldier from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (Anzac) was killed while on duty in Afghanistan earlier this week.

Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, was travelling in her Humvee vehicle when it was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), killing her and two other New Zealanders, Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, and Private Richard Harris, 21.

The three were escorting a comrade to a local doctor.

This marks the first female Anzac soldier to be killed on duty. While many headlines have claimed the incident has reignited the debate about women serving in combat roles, the actual arguments have been thin on the ground.

Former army Major James Brown, now advisor at Australia’s Lowy Institute think tank, suggests that the debate as to women’s participation is now largely over, and people are mentally prepared for female casualties.

The news of Lance Corporal Baker’s death comes in the wake of a report detailing sexual misconduct towards women in the Australian Defence Force.

The report has attracted much publicity in Australia, along with a change in atmosphere as to women in the ADF speaking out about their experiences of abuse.

Eleven countries now permit women to serve in combat roles, including Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Israel, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Although not strictly permitting female combat soldiers, the US Army employs women in front-line support roles. The first such casualty in Afghanistan was First Lieutenant Ashley White, killed in October 2011, again by an IED.

Each female soldier’s death appears to be less of a flashpoint for the debates about women’s combat roles. Within the world’s militaries, however, abuse towards female staff is still rife, and addressing this will be a far longer process.

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