Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Women in Army | Empoerment

On its 66th Republic Day, during a mighty parade in the national capital, India showcased “woman power” with all-women contingents of the three Services for the first time. A day earlier, Wing Commander Pooja Thakur became the first woman to lead a ceremonial tri-service guard of honour, which the visiting U.S. President inspected. But when it comes to the overall status of women in the Indian armed forces, especially in the Army, all this represents a travesty of gender justice. Since being inducted into the Army in 1992 under the Women Special Entry Scheme (they were in even earlier in the Military Nursing Service from 1927 and in the Medical Officers Cadre from 1943), women Army officers are still denied permanent commission on a par with men: they have to be content with the short service commission. On a batch of petitions filed in 2003 by women officers demanding an end to the discriminatory practice, the Delhi High Court in March 2010 granted their just and fair claim for permanent commission — with the singeing words that it was not some “charity being sought… but enforcement of their constitutional rights”. While this prompted the Air Force and the Navy to grant women officers permanent commission, the Army took a different stand, arguing, among other things, that “the bulk of the army’s Junior Commissioned Officers and other ranks hail from rural India, who are not yet ready to accept a woman as their leader in combat situations”. In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court in 2012 while appealing against the High Court order, the Army added: “In theory women in the army may sound good but in practical terms the arrangement has not worked well in the Indian Army and as a concept also our society is not prepared to accept women in combat role.”
As the issue remains in the Supreme Court for more than four years now, the Army needs to get real, and persuade itself to go beyond symbolic and cosmetic steps. It needs to recognise women’s capabilities — as many advanced armed forces across the world have done, even committing them to combat roles — and their right to a full-fledged career in the force, on a par with men. During the 14-year short service commission tenure they now enjoy, women officers in various corps are assigned duties similar to those of men officers without distinction, to all possible field units with men officers. If it is the Army’s claim that beyond that point in permanent commission tenure women could be exposed to hostile environments — it has cited “the unique nature of responsibility and organisational requirement that… the Army Act” necessitates — that truly smacks of gender discrimination. The time has come for the Army to end this iniquitous situation.
source: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/going-beyond-symbolism/article6831124.ece

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