At a time when more women than ever are taking up active roles in militaries, serving on the front lines of armed conflicts and as peacekeepers in the world‘s hot spots, the Indian military refuses to promote women to commanding positions. The Centre recently told the Supreme Court that women may not be 'suitable' for command posts in the Army as male troops are 'not yet prepared' to 'accept' women officers.
“The composition of rank & file being male, and predominantly drawn from a rural background, with prevailing societal norms, the troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command,” it further explained. The SC was hearing a plea filed by a few women officers who wanted a command posting after getting permanent commission.
So let's get this straight--instead of smashing pre-existing stereotypes and empowering women by encouraging them to take up challenging positions, we're coddling our men because their fragile egos will be bruised if they have a female boss? I really have nothing to say.
But it doesn't end there. The Centre went on to explain that these officers' personals lives will suffer, affecting the education of children and career prospects of the spouse. Wait, so they're saying that spouses of women officers will have to suffer the same fate that the spouses of male officers presently do? *gasp* That's absolutely unacceptable.
"...it is a greater challenge for women officers to meet these hazards of service owing to prolonged absence during pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families, especially when both husband and wife happen to be service officers," the Centre said.
Well, here's a novel idea--how about you stop enforcing the trope that women need to be the primary caregivers for their families, and let *them* decide for themselves what they'd like to do with their personal lives?
It also said male and female officers cannot be treated at par in the matter of postings because of their different physical standards and exposures, and reservations 'overexposing' women officers to combat situations. Again, this is the over-used 'women aren't strong enough' excuse that has been used by the military for decades--but what we don't understand is that if women across the globe can take up extreme combative roles, why can't India allow it's women to do it? It would be an entirely different story if women officers refused such roles--but if women are willing and volunteering to serve their country, why are men with grey hair 'denying them permission'?
Thankfully, the Supreme Court echoed our views. Meenakshi Lekhi and Aishwarya Bhatti, who were representing the women officers, told the court that many of them displayed exceptional bravery in adverse situations. They informed the court it was Minty Agarwal who, as flight controller, had guided Wing Commander Abhinandan when he shot down a Pakistani F-16 for which she was awarded the Yudh Seva Medal. Previously, woman officer Mitali Madhumita was awarded the Sena Medal for her bravery when terrorists attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul.
The bench said that a complete bar against women officers for holding command posts was not right and the Army should allow them 'as per organisational requirement and suitability'.
The court added that while there was resistance when women were being inducted in the police force but they are doing extremely well. “A change of mindset is required with changing times. You need to give them the opportunity and they will serve to the best of their capabilities,” the bench said.
We couldn't have said it better! The military should decide whether women are fit for combative roles only after they give them a chance to prove their capabilities. Assuming that women are unfit, delicate and meant to balance their jobs with their 'domestic duties' is misogynistic and regressive. Here's hoping the intervention of the court will change things for the brave women officers who want a shot at the commanding ranks in the Indian military.
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