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Are Women Really Unsuitable For Command Posts, Or Is The Army Scared Of Losing Its All–Male Bastion?

Posted: February 6, 2020

The Centre made a shocking, regressive statement to the Supreme Court, that women could not be accepted in commanding roles in the Army. This is not acceptable.

It is simply shocking and outrageous, “Male troops won’t accept women in commanding roles, Centre tells SC: Govt has often adopted conservative stance on women in armed forces.”

Further it was stated that women were unsuited for the leading post because “male troops were unprepared for accepting women officers”.

Women have always commanded historically

We have had a proficient woman President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister and now Finance Minister, then why not woman commanders? If a woman, Nirmala Sitaraman, could command the Defence, wherein lay the logic that women cannot be command officers? Remember it was Sitaraman, as the Defence Minister in 2015, who declared that women be recruited into the Military Police. However, the recruitment began in 2019.

Is this not male chauvinism, male ego, or gender bias?

If we flip through our ancient history, the Rig Veda cites two women warriors Vaddhrimati and Vispala, who fought battles! Women were given training in military expertises. Mudgalani who was the wife of a soldier, is said to have driven her husband’s chariot and defeated the enemies! Apart from Jhansi Rani there have been good number of women commanding fighters.

Where did this directive come from?

This biased, sexist statement was made by the Central government as a rejoinder to a plea by some women officers against the refusal of Permanent Commission (PC) to women officials in the armed forces. This case was being heard by the Supreme Court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi.

It was argued that women officers from Short Service Commission(SSC) of the Air Force and Army, who had requested for PC were given mere extension to the level of SSC. They should be allowed to have PC at par with male SSC officers with all due benefits.

Reasons given for the directive

Further, the Central government bluntly refused to accord equal treatment to male and women officers. Physiological and domestic reasons were cited as the strong reasons. It was explained that women had “lower physical standard” than men. Moreover, women would be absent for long period due to pregnancy, child care, education, husband’s transfers, career and other exigencies.

That in the all-male unit of the army, the men were usually from rural background and hence not all educated to accept women officers. That there could be great dangers if women were taken as prisoners of war, that they could be subjected to greater torture.

An obnoxious reason was earlier cited by our former army chief General Bipin Rawat who felt women officers would be put to embarrassment and discomfiture at the front and charge the soldiers of “peeping” when changing clothes! He also opinied that “the army was not yet ready for women in combat roles.”

Similar discrimination in most fields

All the reasons physically or physiologically highlighted are impediments in all fields and jobs. But women have fought them all.

The modern woman is not a namby pamby delicate dame but one with iron mettle. What should be kept in mind is that not all women opt for the gritty defence force. Only those with utter confidence and courage do.

Women have shown intense courage when circumstances have demanded.  Meenakshi Lekhi and Aishwarya Agarwal ( the representing lawyers of the women officers) have aptly given examples of two exemplary women fighters. Minti Agarwal, the flight controller, who had given the sanest advice when Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down by a Pakistani F-16. The other valourous lady was Mitali Madhumati, who showed great courage when terrorists attacked the Indian Embassy in Kabul! For such bravery, she was conferred with Sena Medal.

The navy and air force have waived off the gender barrier and have appointed female fighter pilots! Why cannot the army change their mindset and go ahead recruiting women commanders? I am sure they will render excellent service. The army must change recruitment rules for women.

Image source: YouTube

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