Minimum heights for women aspiring to join the Armed Forces – including the Guardia Civil – have been brought in line with those of men to avoid discrimination which automatically excludes 45% of females in Spain.
A European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling a year ago yesterday (Thursday) required all member States to set a minimum height valid for each sex, not a blanket minimum for both sexes, since with women being shorter than men on average, it meant more females were denied entry to the forces than men.
Spain has now put this into place.
Until now, both men and women were required to be 1.6 metres (5’3”) or above to join the forces.
Men automatically had more of a chance, given that the average height for a Spanish man is 1.77 metres (5’9.5”), number 41 in the world, whilst Spanish women – whose height averages 1.63 metres (5’4”) would be more likely to be barred, since any female below average height would not be able to enlist.
This would particularly affect those of foreign descent, especially of Latin American parents, grandparents or further back – a continent whose citizens heading for Europe settle almost exclusively in Spain, it also has some of the world’s shortest people: women from Guatemala average just 1.5 metres (4’11”) in height.
In fact, one of Catalunya’s most famous residents, Latin pop-rocker Shakira – who is half-Lebanese, a quarter Spanish and a quarter Columbian – is just 4’11” tall.
Now, the minimum height for women to join the forces in Spain is 1.55 metres (5’1”) – which would exclude Shakira, but allow many others of below-average height to realise their dream career.
And height is not everything, even in the forces, Spain’s ministry of defence insists.
Parliament’s Defence Commission MP Félix Alonso says, “we need a lot of brain and not so much brawn.”
Another rule affecting women trying to join the forces has been relaxed: although tattoos are still forbidden, this is only the case when they are visible whilst in a uniform wearing trousers.
Until now, visible tattoos were banned, which meant a woman who had one on her thigh was prevented from joining as it showed up when she wore a skirt – yet, if a male candidate had had one in the same place, he would have been able to join since it would be covered by his trousers.
Now, the ‘not visible in trousers’ rule applies to both, even for tattoos that show up when female officers are in skirts.
Spain’s still growing, but UK and USA have peaked
Research shows that average heights in Spain, Italy and most Latin American countries are continuing to rise – unlike those of the UK, USA, Japan and Finland, where natives stopped growing many years ago.
Height is largely a question of phenotype – genetics, combined with the effects of a person’s or society’s environment – and, whilst Latin nations on both sides of the pond were often practically third-world until as little as two generations ago or even less, most are now prosperous and increasing in wealth.
This means better nutrition, which tends to increase average height over time.
Most countries experienced a height increase throughout the 20th century, with many of the wealthier ones reaching their peak: in 1914, men from the USA were the third-tallest in the world and women the fourth-tallest, whilst now they are at numbers 37 and 42 respectively.
The world’s tallest average men are Dutch, at 1.83 metres (6’0”), and the world’s tallest females are from Latvia at 1.7 metres (5’7”).
Whilst Guatemala is home to the world’s shortest women, the world’s shortest men are in East Timor, averaging just 1.6 metres (5’4”).
After The Netherlands, the world’s tallest height averages for men are in Belgium, Estonia, Latvia and Denmark, in that order, and the world’s tallest height averages for women, after Latvia, are in The Netherlands, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Serbia.