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Norwegian troops get unisex dorms

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Room mates. A Norwegian Army female recruit on exercise with a male colleague. Photo: Torgeir Haugaard/Norwegian Armed Forces
12:01 CET+01:00
The Norwegian Army has started making women soldiers share unisex bedrooms with their male colleagues in a bold, some might say dangerous, experiment. Surprisingly though, the women so far report a cut in sexual harassment.
The new unisex dormitories have been trialled at a military base in northern Norway, with each room putting two women together with four men. 
 
According to Ulla-Britt Lilleaas, co-author of the report "The Army: the vanguard, rear guard and battlefield of equality”, the women reported that sharing a room helped make them "one of the boys". 
 
"To them there was nothing strange about the unisex rooms," she wrote. "They had entered a common mode where gender stereotypes had disappeared, or at least they were less obvious." 
 
One woman soldier, who had purchased especially large underwear to minimize her sex-appeal, was surprised to find that rather than accentuate gender differences, sharing a room helped make them less relevant. 
 
“You have to be a team here, and then you have to live together in order to be able to trust in one another”, said one of the women, who concluded the rooms were a “damn good idea”.
 
The move is the latest trail-blazing initiative from the Norwegian armed forces. In November, the forces announced that they would now serve soldiers vegetarian-only food one day a week in an effort to combat climate change.
 

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Lilleaas and her co-author Dag Ellingsen compared the unisex camp with another training centre for the Royal Norwegian Navy, where women and men have separate rooms. 
 
“It becomes us and them, boys against the girls," Ellingsen argued. “Another problem with girls’ rooms is that they in some cases fall outside the information flow. And they are often characterized by conflicts and cliques.”

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