Answer: 83 countries currently have some form of a military draft
This past February a federal judge ruled that a men-only draft is unconstitutional siding with a San Diego men’s advocacy group that challenged the government’s practice of having only men sign up for the draft. The group cited sex discrimination in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection clause. While the Houston judge stopped short of ordering the Selective Service System to register women for military service it helped resurface the question of a military draft in the United States and around the world. Technically speaking, in case conscription is ever brought back to the U.S., the draft law’s only major requirement has been for men – but not women – to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. As most 18-40-year-old men know, however, this law – which has been in place for roughly four decades – hasn’t been anything to worry about. Older generations did have to go through the draft process, and other countries around the world, both peaceful and violent, enforce conscription to this day.
According to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American fact tank based in Washington, D.C., “the U.S. is one of 23 countries where the military draft is authorized but not currently implemented. An additional 60 countries – fewer than a third of the 191 for which Pew Research Center found reliable information – have some form of an active conscription program. The other 108 countries we examined have no legal provision for compulsory military service; 23 of these don’t even have conventional armed forces.” Some of the countries that do have some form of an active conscription program include Mexico, Brazil, Russia, and Israel.
Pew continues on to note that “the most common [form] is a ‘universal service’ requirement, in which all (or nearly all) of the target population is expected to serve a stint in the armed forces.” One of the most famous conscription programs is the Israel Defense Forces, or Tzahal, where the required time ranges from a few months to several years, or even indefinitely. The term “target population” refers to an age group, not just gender, which means that even women are required to serve some amount of time in the armed forces. Pew points out that, “besides Israel, five other countries (Eritrea, Mali, Morocco, North Korea, and Tunisia) conscript women as part of universal military service schemes; five (Benin, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Norway and Sweden) have selective service systems that encompass men and women.” Conscription can be a contentious topic, as evidenced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent failure to form a new government. At the heart of the impasse was a military conscription bill governing exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students. It remains to be seen if conscription will ever be strictly enforced back in the United States. For now, it’s something that essentially exists on paper.