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So it was only in the 1990’s that the Indian army started accepting women officers into the regular army. Now being a civilian myself who comes from a civilian family, this was not something that I really dwelled upon. But then last week I came across this statement by an American Marine Captain Katie Petronio. She says that women should not be put in combat and also that integrating women into the Marine Corps will result in, “a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females.”
You can read the whole article here. Now this got me thinking and also googling.
It was only last year in October that the Indian army recruited the first ever woman Jawan. However, this news was tempered by the postscript, which clearly stated that she would only be part of the Territorial Army for now and was a long way off from any sort of combat duties. A little more reading revealed that women officers are made to retire at 14 years, which cripples them professionally as officers are eligible for many ben only after 18 years. I am of course not talking about the medical corps where women have served ably in various posts for very long years.
My husband, an army brat himself says that he has friends, daughters of army officers who chose to join the army as well. However when you compare that to the sons of army officers who choose to do so the number is not much to talk about. So it looks like the Indian Army is not always the first choice for a career for a woman, despite having grown up within its folds. (Would love to hear from female army kids on whether this is true or not and why.)
Today when a woman police officer is hardly a rarity, why is it that no one talks about women in combat? It’s not like we don’t have a history of women in combat.
As early as 1943, the Indian National army had an all women regiment named the Rani of Jhansi regiment led by a woman as well. And Indian history is littered with the names of women who stood side by side with the men on battlefields. So what made it change?
Or is it simply that there are not enough women out there who would like to join the army at all?
Which come to think of it is not a bad thing considering we have more than enough warmongers out there!
What do you think?
Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a Writer and Travel columnist.
Her fourth book and first collection
The Indian defence forces seem to have a deep-seated bias against women in combat duties, in spite of the fact that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) already has three all-women battalion, the first having been raised way back in 1986; (it also has the world’s first ever all-women pipe band in a para-military force). These all-women battalions have been involved in internal security duties, and have also been part of UN peace-keeping missions- their work in the war-torn Liberia is part of CRPF’s proud history. The battalion in Liberia was ably led by Commandant Seema Dhundia.
Also, women in the Israel army have been doing front-line combat duties since ages.
Exactly Sir, which is why it baffles me why there is absolutely no discussion on the topic.
Do you think that it is the women who really don’t want to get involved or maybe the absolute lack of encouragement ensures that they stay away?
Not to mention, the lack of rewards and promotions that would encourage to choose the defence forces as a career as well.
Well, I think that in our country where women are seldom encouraged to have any kind of career, women joining the army would actually be discouraged; the army itself is a male bastion (and reflects the Indian patriarchal reality?) and that’s why perhaps it feels women are more suited to be nurses in army hospitals, or at best be part of non-combat arms such as the ASC or AMC.
As you said, lack of rewards and promotional avenues is a factor- it applies to men as well. That’s why the army is perennially short of officers; in fact the army is almost always compared unfavorably with the Indian civil services where salary, perks and promotions are concerned.
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