Role and Employment of Women in the Indian Armed Forces

Published: 2021-06-20 14:20:07
essay essay

Category: Statistics

Type of paper: Essay

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Hey! We can write a custom essay for you.

All possible types of assignments. Written by academics


“The highest national priority must be the unleashing of woman power in governance. That is the single most important source of societal energy that we have kept corked for half a century”.
-Mani Shankar Aiyar
1. It is the society that is the feeder to any organization within its realm and the same is seen through its functioning & projection. Traditionally, men were the warriors & the women housekeepers, the roles were well demarcated. Changes over the period have merged this distinguished line of specific gender task distribution and has managed to put a wedge into the male dominated culture. The first batch of women officers got commissioned in1992, now 17 years past women still have not been able to break the barrier fully inspite of breaking the crust and making inroads. Yet with time they have started to see the bigger canvas and so also their scope on the same.
2. Defence readiness is one major aspect which is required to be borne in mind throughout while considering their employability options. Their career aspects and opportunities need to be viewed holistically keeping the final aim in focus. Yet a few discriminatory policies as been professed by the government need review such as their short service commission, combat exclusion, and entry into ranks and so on. Fore- planning and systematic approach should be the correct approach prior to deciding on any such issue. Nevertheless, a small beginning is ensuring a greater role for women. Government of India, after the high Court ruling, has decided to grant Permanent Commission in select cadres.[3]
3. Different set of policies will only affect the working efficiency and interaction between the two genders in the services. This exclusion from select working places will only harm the organization and upset the normal working routine. Notwithstanding this, Armed forces have been constituted with the sole purpose of ensuring defence of the country and all policy decisions should be guided by this overriding factor. All matters concerning defence of the country have to be considered in a dispassionate manner. No decision should be taken which even remotely affects the cohesiveness and efficiency of the military. Concern for equality of sexes or political expediency should not influence defence policies.[4]
4. Induction of women into selected fields of Indian Armed Forces has given rise to the issue of their employability in various spheres and how training is to be affected. This study seeks to analyse the above issue in Indian context.
Statement of the Problem
5. Justification for the Study
8. This study concentrates on the issue of role & training of women in the Indian Army. Questions that are likely to be raised in the context of Air Force and Navy in the light of this study are kept beyond its purview. will only be dealt with in passing as far as its relevance to women in general is concerned. It will restrict itself to the .
Methods of Data Collection
9. The following techniques of data collection have been used for the purpose of the present study:-
(a) Objective type questionnaires circulated within student officers, staff at DSSC, Wellington and lady officers serving and retired.
(b) Interview with a serving lady officer.
(c) Books, magazines, journals available at DSSC library and information from the net.
10. Due to vastness of the subject, it is intended to study important aspects of the subject in seven chapters as follows: –
(a) Introduction.
(b) Methodology.
(c) Historical Perspective & World Overview.
(d) Employment Problems and Present Status.
(e) Training and Related Aspects.
(f) Future Role Prospects.
(g) Conclusion.
Source of Study
11. Sources of study are the Defence Services Staff College library, personal experiences and Internet. Bibliography is attached as appendix.
12. The Indian mythology sources the whole energy in the entire creation to a female deity called Shakti, the consort of Lord Shiva. The scriptures very vividly describe the first ever war fought in the creation, i.e., between Devas and Rakshashas wherein the commander of Rakshashas, Mahishasura, was killed by none other than the overall commander of Devas, named Durga. To this day we celebrate this victory every year as Durga Pooja. All civilizations have myths based on female goddesses- hunters, warriors, nurturers and preservers. The Greek goddess Athena, Roman Diana, Nordic Valkyries and the Amazons are cases in point. History is replete with such female warrior commanders, Maharani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Razia Sultan and Chand Bibi to quote a few. This trend is in no way extinct. Nonetheless, the women culture in armies drew controversies during the medieval period and since then has refused to die down. Despite various roles in the armies of past societies, it is only recently that women have begun to be given a more expanded role in contemporary armed forces of the world, and thus, the debate picks up more vociferously.
INA – The Forerunner in Identifying Women Power
13. Subhash Chandra Bose, was the pioneer in recognizing the untapped potential of the Indian women. He therefore, involved them in Indian National Army, which was raised to snatch independence from the colonial builders. The first Rani of Jhansi training camp was inaugurated under the direct guidance of Subhash Chandra Bose, near Singapore on October 22, 1943.[5] The seed sown back then has gained a definite contour whilst making women in Indian Army an imperative part. The image of women of the Rani of Jhansi regiment left the British spellbound. Women in India have always played an active role when it comes to safeguarding the nation. But organizing women into an army was, probably, done for the first time by Subhash Chandra Bose. The women in Indian National Army (INA) fought for their country`s independence along with their male counterparts with equal courage and valour.
A World Scan:
Recent History of Changes in Women’s Roles
14. It’s been only 17 years since the women wore the ranks of a Second Lieutenant in the Indian Armed Forces. This period is a very small window in the history of women sacrifices for the military cause in contemporary world. To understand the various facets of this gender developing through the time there is a need to scan through the world armies that gave women equal opportunities to serve their countries alongside men without discrimination. The evolution in various countries is enumerated in subsequent paragraphs.
15. The first women became involved with the Australian Armed Forces with the creation of the Army Nursing Service in 1899. Currently, women make up 12.8% of the Australian Defence Force (with 15.1% in the Royal Australian Air Force, 14.6% in the Royal Australian Navy and 17.5% in the Australian Army).[21] In 1998 Australia became the second nation in the world to allow women to serve on its submarines. Australia does not permit women to serve in military positions involving ‘direct combat’. Australia’s first deployment of female sailors in a combat zone was during the 1991 Gulf War.
16. Women join the British Armed forces in all roles except those where “primary duty is to close with and kill the enemy”. Today, 71% of all jobs in theNavy, 67% in the Army and 96% in the Air Force are tenable by women. Female personnel currently make up around 9% of the British armed forces.[24]
17. Women served in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps during the World War I and II; however they were not permitted to serve in combat teams. Same was during the Korean War of 1950-1953.In 1970 the government created equal opportunities, making it possible for women to reach any rank. In 1982 laws were passed ending all discrimination in employment and combat related roles in the Canadian armed forces were opened for women, with no restrictions in place, with the exception of the submarine service. In 1990 the Ministers Advisory Board on Women in the Canadian Forces was created. Women were permitted to serve on board Canadian submarines in 2002. Canadian women have also become clearance divers, and commanded large infantry units and Canadian warships. On May 17, 2006 Captain Nichola Goddard became the first Canadian woman to be killed in combat during operations in Afghanistan. Today women account for close to 13 percent of the total strength of the Canadian forces.
18. Women were employed in the Danish Armed Forces as early as 1934. In 1962 women were allowed to volunteer in the regular armed forces as long as they did not serve in units experiencing direct combat. The year 1971 saw the enlistment of women as non-commissioned officers. In 1978, based on the reports of studies on the topic, women were allowed to enlist in an all areas of the Danish armed forces, with combat trials in the eighties exploring the capabilities of women in combat. In 1998 women were allowed to sample military life in the same way as conscripted men, however without being completely open to conscription. NATO reports also indicate that the Danish military does not promote women to positions of leadership.[26] Denmark has different basic physical requirements for men and women in their armed forces; however the requirements for the more physically demanding jobs do not differ for either sex.
19. Finnish Defence Forces does not conscript women. However, since 1995, the women between 18 and 30 years of age have the possibility of voluntarily undertaking the military service in the Defence Forces or in the Finnish Border Guard. In garrison environment, the females are lodged in separate rooms and are given separate toilet and bath facilities. In exercises and aboard ships, women are lodged with men. Yearly, some 500 women complete the voluntary military service.[40]
20. A study (December 2006[41]) shows that women represent 19% of all French military personnel. They are allowed to serve in all posts (including combat infantry), except submarines and riot control units. However, they still represent a small part of the personnel in combat role specialties.
21. Germany had employed one of the most conservative gender-policies of any NATO country. During the final months of World War II, young boys and old men were called up to fight the advancing Soviet forces, however no woman was called upon, despite the country’s long history of female fighting figures. In the year 1975 the first women were appointed for the medical service of the German Bundeswehr. But it was not until January 2001 that women joined German combat units. Women represent a share of 7 percent of all troops except conscripted soldiers. Women in the German air force have received their jet fighter license.[46]
22. Several women transport pilots served in the 1948 War of Independence, but later the Air Force closed its ranks to female pilots. There is a draft of both men and women. Most women serve in non-combat positions, and are conscripted for only two years (instead of four for men). In 2001, Israel’s first female combat pilot received her wings. Up to 83% of positions in the Israeli army are open to women. Combat duty is voluntary for women.
23. Women in Norway have been able to fill military roles since 1938, and during the Second World War female officers served in all branches of the military. Between 1977 and 1984, laws expanded the role of women in the Armed Forces, and in 1985 the equal opportunities legislations were applied to the military. Norwegian women are permitted to serve on a voluntary basis, however in the event of national mobilization they will be under the same pressures as men. In 1995, Norway became the first country to allow women to serve on its military submarines.[49] All women between the age 18-20 are given the opportunity to attend national conscription selection.
24. Women have served since World War I as all-female units. Women make up 10% of Russia’s military strength. Several programs during the height of the cold war were set up to encourage women to enlist. Participation in military orientated youth programs and forced participation in the reserves for ex-servicewomen up to the age of 40 are some examples.
United States
25. The United States is considered a pioneer[6] and a trend-setter as regards induction of women in the services. There are approximately 200,000 American women on active duty in the US armed forces. They constitute nearly 20 percent of its strength. The scope of combat-risk assignments for women was redefined to open additional appointments to them. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps wasestablished in the United States in 1941 and saw combat during World War II. The Women’s Naval Reserve and Marine Corps Women’s Reserve were also created during this conflict. There were 350,000 American women who served during World War II, 16 were killed in action and 83 were captured and spent three years as Japanese prisoners of war. In 1948, women were fully integrated within units during peace time, with only the WAC remaining a separate female unit. The 1991 Gulf War proved to be the pivotal time for the role of women in the American Armed Forces to come to the attention of the world media. Over 40,000 women served in almost every role the armed forces had to offer. Today, women can serve on American combat ships, to include command. However women are not permitted to serve on submarines or to participate in Special Forces. Women are barred from serving in Infantry, Special Operations, Artillery, Armoured, and Forward Air Defence.
Some Other Countries
26. Bulgaria has adopted a highly flexible model. Women are appointed to professional military service in the Armed Forces on appointments proposed by the Chief of the General Staff. They have equal training standards and equal professional rights as men. Women constitute about 7 percent of the total force.
27. Turkey has introduced the first female combat pilot of the world.
28. Since 1989 there are no gender restrictions in the Swedish military on access to military training or positions. They are allowed to serve in all parts of the military and in all positions, including combat. [55]
29. Thailand has recently begun recruiting and training women to conduct counter-insurgency operations.[56]
30. Libya is the only Islamic nation to have women in the military. The 500-strong unit of President’s bodyguard is called variously the “Green Nuns” and “The Amazonian Guard”.[47]

“Men are the historic authors of organised violence.”
Jean Bethke Elshtain,1987[7].
Issues Regarding Women’s Role in the Military
32. The role of women in the military has become a burning topic for debate in all Armed Forces and the governments all across the globe. With equality and parity being the norm of the day, women’s combat exclusion is tagged as gender discrimination. Thus, the debate continues to rage. Arguments both for and against for inclusion of women as combat soldiers are placed by all in the organization as well as those who are analytical of the same.
The Arguments
33. Many argue & these arguments have been showcased by those who favor women serving in combat roles as well as by those who are against playing with the system. Much of these arguments are not only based on the physical and physiological differences between the two sexes, but also on varied behavioral aspects and the fallout of the presence of the fairer sex on the battlefield. Some of the arguments are discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.
34. Physical Limitations.
One of the most visible attributes in regards to the argument is the fact that, on average, female soldiers are physically weak in strength as their male counterparts.
35. Behavioural Concerns.
The dilution of a fighting unit’s esprit de corps is highlighted as another reason for women to be excluded from forward-line combat actions. Indeed, many soldiers have stated that they could not trust a woman to perform her duties in a place where trusting your fellow soldier would be exceedingly critical.[13]
36. Gender Discrimination and Past Trends .
Many have viewed the sidelining of women from jobs which can prove their equality with men as the biggest gender discrimination. They advocate that women should not be deprived from serving in these roles just by citing historic well defined gender roles, which view soldiering as a profession for men, and that equal opportunity be applicable in the military. History also provides examples of women outperforming men during conflicts and in specific in the combat roles.
37. On Ground Concerns.
Reason for removing female soldiers from the front lines is no reflection of the performance of female soldiers, but that of the enraged male infantryman after witnessing a woman wounded. Australian soldiers had reported reluctance to take women on reconnaissance or special operations, as they feared that in case of combat or discovery, their priority will be to save the women and not to complete the mission. Thus while men might be able to be programmed to kill, it is not as easy to program men to neglect women.”[14]
[15] How will the media and the public react to the spectacle of a woman being beaten and paraded on TV by her foreign captors? But, is there a difference between male and female POWs? Many offer views regarding females in battle, and that they would be as effective as men. They may be right but then let us put the possibility of one of our female officers being captured and raped, or worse still being repatriated pregnant or bearing the enemy’s children. The very notion creates turmoil. This point is countered, however, by the fact that women in non-combat roles are also exposed to the similar risk without having benefit of being armed and trained adequately to combat and defend them. In general, it can be stated that volunteer soldiers are expected to have accepted the risk of such treatment when enlisting regardless of gender. When one of the woman officer was asked, if she had fears of being captured and tortured, “exactly the same fears as you had imagine”, she replied. “Why do you feel the need to worry about me? If I get captured it will be my problem, not yours”.
39. Dilemma for Commanding Officers. Commanding Officers (COs) have a great role to play in shaping the career of young officers. Therefore, opinion of COs carries heavy weightage since these are formed directly from on ground performance. It becomes their utmost responsibility to ensure safety and security of women officers under their command which they find it quite difficult, especially during field exercises. Another problem encountered by them is regards to their efficient employment. Employing them in isolation and during night hours as duty officers and on other tasks creates threat to their safety and dignity. Thus their male counterparts have to undertake added responsibilities, which they silently detest.
40. Referring to the recent increase in women’s service, some COs pointed out that at 14 years of service a lady officer will be second in command of a unit and will officiate as its commanding officer. Initially having been employed on softer appointments, there is an obvious disadvantage to the unit when they grow in rank and service without matching experience.
41. Extra Burden Felt by Male Colleagues.
The male fraternity adores the commitment of lady officers. It not only understands but appreciates as well the challenges they faced whilst trying to adapt into a male dominated environment. However, it is desired from the women officers to perform their part without much ado. Biased treatment expected and willfully accepted by them is just not warranted. One officer was outspoken enough to state – “They have joined the military on the plank of equality of sexes but this plank vanishes the day they join the training academy. Thereafter, they again become the weaker sex needing special dispensations.” An officer recounted that a lady officer posted to an Ordnance Depot declined to carry out periodic stocktaking of stores lying in isolated sheds unless provided with escort for security. Other officers had to do her job.
42. In army there is a concept of field and peace postings. Every officer looks forward to a good peace posting to be with his family and sort out family issues. But a large number of peace postings at junior officers’ level are held by the women officers, thereby depriving male officers of their due share. It has become a sore point with many and cause of low morale.
43. Soldiers’ View. Most soldiers view women’s induction as a fall-out of Government policies and generally take it lightly. They are convinced that women can never lead them effectively. Some Junior Commissioned Officers were blunt enough to state – “An officer, who cannot run with us, cannot train with us and cannot exercise with us can barely be expected to lead us”.
44. Notwithstanding the above, India is proud of the fact that women in the Indian services are being treated in a manner befitting their dignity and self respect, despite the fact that the Indian soldier is drawn from rustic stock where women to date are confined to household chores. In this regard, India can rightfully claim to have a record which is far better than that of any advanced nation in the world.
Major Issues Experienced
45. Women in all militaries are confronted with social, behavioral and psychological problems at all levels. According to many surveys carried out women are not fully satisfied with the ethos of military profession. Some of the major issues concerning women in all defence forces are discussed below in the succeeding paragraphs.
46. Sexual Harassment.
This is one single concern that has defied solution so far – how to ensure safety and protect dignity of women in the forces. Almost all women view this as their major fear. What hurts women most is the attitude of military officials who dismiss complaints as frivolous and due to over-sensitivities of women involved. Even serious accusations of sexual assault are many times treated in a perfunctory manner. Moreover, many officers tend to adopt an attitude of acquiescence by resorting to ‘boys will be boys’ apology.
47. Low Acceptance.
Acceptance of women in the military has not been smooth in any country. Every country has to contend with sceptics who consider it to be a counterproductive programme. They tend to view it as a political gimmick to flaunt sexual equality, or, at best, a necessary liability. Additionally, every country has to mould the attitude of its society at large and male soldiers in particular to enhance acceptability of women in the military.
48. Lack of Job Satisfaction.
Most women feel that their competence is not given due recognition. Seniors tend to be over-indulgent without valuing their views. They are generally marginalised and not involved in any major decision-making. They have to work twice as hard as men to prove their worth. Many women complain that despite their technical qualifications. Lack of individual challenge confronts a vast majority of servicewomen who find themselves in ‘catch-22’ situation of being a non- combatant , and often without responsibility commensurate with rank, position and seniority- the three most acknowledged tools of authority in the armed forces”.[16] Since women are assigned only to support branches/ corps, the majority of profiles to which women are designated tend to be routine and uninspiring desk jobs. The thrill and adventure associated with a career in the armed forces remains an unfulfilled aspiration for most. Most women find the Services not matching with their expectations, in terms that their work profiles are not challenging enough. Women who do cite achievements in the armed forces are more as a matter of chance and the right connections rather than systematic opportunities accorded to all women officers in the Services.
49. Poor Comfort Level.
Most women accepted the fact that their presence amongst males tends to make the environment ‘formal and stiff’. Mutual comfort level between men and women colleagues is low. Men miss their light hearted banter which is considered essential to release work tensions and promote group cohesion. They consider women to be intruding on their privacy.
50. Doubts about Role Definition.
The profession of arms is all about violence and brutality. To kill another human is not moral but soldiers are trained to kill. They tend to acquire a streak of raw ruthlessness and coarseness. This makes the environment highly non-conducive and rough for women. Women, in general, are confused about the way they should conduct themselves. If they behave lady-like, their acceptance amongst male colleagues is low. On the other hand, their active participation in casual repartee carries the danger of their losing colleagues’ respect.
51. No Kid Glove Treatment.
Women who are mentally robust, physically fit and highly motivated resent preferential treatment being meted out to them. They want to be treated at par with their male colleagues so that they get a fair opportunity to prove their worth. They demand same selection criteria, same training standards and same work schedules. They do not want to be treated as weaklings as it offends their sensitivities and self-respect. They take exception to some women seeking kid-glove treatment to escape hardships.
52. Mismatch between Perception and Reality.
However, most of the women opting for a career in the services belong to families where their upbringing has been in a highly sheltered environment. A career in the military is at the other extreme. They admit having limited knowledge of military life at the time of joining. Subsequently, life in the military comes as a big shock to them. While some adapt to it well others find the task to be too daunting. Additionally, many women officers are unsure of their identity – they want to be officers and yet be given the deference of service wives. It has been a cause for despair for many.
53. Hardships of Married Life.
Women normally get commissioned at the age of 23 to 25 years. Soon, thereafter, family pressures start building up on them to get married. Many women confess that managing married life with military service is difficult, though marrying a service officer helps. Subsequent pregnancy and motherhood prove very demanding.
54. Short Service Commission: A Demoralizing Factor.
All the three services offer only a short service commission (SSC). Unlike male officers, who have the option of a permanent commission at the time of joining or at the time of completion of their initial term if SSC officers, women officers are not extended the option of a PC at any stage in their service. At the end of their maximum tenure of 14 years they have to leave the service. The ceiling on their tenure of service has a serious limiting effect on the career, as they reach a certain dead end in their career while they are in their early or mid thirties. As long as women officers in the services are denied the choice of a permanent commission, their service in the armed forces will remain merely a job and never a dedicated career option.
55. Since the shortage of officers is being experienced only at the junior levels, the armed forces do not envisage any role for women officers at senior levels in the foreseeable future. This propensity is reflected in all current policies regarding employability and opportunities offered to women in the armed forces. With a limited service span and the restrictions placed on their role employability, women have a double disadvantage of a prejudicial policy, which even if they overcome, they do not have the experience necessary to attain higher ranks. Since women are not employed in any mainstream roles they miss out on important rungs on the ladder of experience, which are crucial for a command and therefore have no representation at the decision-making levels.[17] This, of course, excludes the Medical Corps.
56. A limited service tenure has overall critical ramifications for women. In their early thirties, faced with a dead end and unemployment, women officers have little choice but to either resign themselves to their domestic responsibilities or to struggle all over again in a highly competitive environment to re-establish themselves in a new career field. To have no options to continue in the armed forces after giving the organisation the best years of one’s life is a highly stressful experience and often leads to periods of grave depression. Women officers, once they complete their tour of duty, have to cope with a sudden loss of status, occupation and remuneration all in one sweep. At the end of their short service tenure women officers are not eligible for any pensioners’ benefits either and so, they lose out on economic gains as well.
57. Combat Exclusions.
Career prospects of women are enormously constraint & limited due to a strict and formal combat exclusion policy for women.[19]
58. The way to power & decision making which includes command of troops with seniority is through tenures in field & combat application. Since women officers have been denied this arena they are considered to be on equal footing. Lack of field experiences will never let them compete for higher decision making positions & therefore will not be able to stand tall & at par with their male counterparts.
59. Why women have traditionally been absent from the battlefield is, of course, their relative physical weakness. From antiquity males have been considerably larger and stronger than females; indeed some biologists believe that nature has made them stronger in order that they might fight. Over the last twenty years, studies found that the average US female army recruit was 12 centimeters shorter,14.3 kilograms lighter, had 16.9 fewer kilograms of muscle, and 2.6 more kilograms of fat than the average male recruit. She had only 55% of the upper body strength and 72% of the lower body strength of the average male. Since fat mass is inversely related to aerobic capacity and heat tolerance, women are also at a significant disadvantage when performing aerobic activities such as marching with heavy loads and working in heat. At high altitudes, women’s handicap is such that it may affect their ability to reproduce. Finally, even when the experiments were controlled for height, women only had 80 percent of the strength of men. Overall, only the upper 20 percent of women can do as well, physically, as the lower 20 percent of men.
60. Thanks to the ‘superior ability of men to add muscle to their bodies, intensive training, far from diminishing the physical differences between the sexes, tends to increase them still further. After eight weeks of such training male plebes at West Point demonstrated 32 percent more power in the lower body and performed 48 percent more work at the leg press than female ones. At the bench press, the men demonstrated 270 percent more power and performed 473 percent more work than the women. One biologist claims that, if the hundred strongest individuals were to be selected out of a random group consisting of one hundred men and one hundred women, then ninety-three would be male and only seven female. Another has calculated that only the upper 5 percent of women are as strong as the median male.[20]
61. Morphologically, too, women are less well adapted to war. Thinner skulls, lighter bone ridges and weaker jaw bones provide them with less protection against blows. Many women develop large, pendulous breasts that impede movement and require special protection. Shorter arms make it harder for women to draw weapons from their scabbards, stab with them, and throw them; to say nothing of the possibility that a different brain structure renders them less adept at guiding or intercepting projectiles. Women’s legs are also shorter and, being set at a different angle, less suitable both for sprinting and for running long distances; tests among ROTC cadets showed 78 percent of men, but only 6 percent of women, could run 2 miles in under 14 minutes. All the above mentioned tests have been made on young, childless women. Once a woman has given birth the difference in pelvic structure becomes even more noticeable; in fact it is one of the characteristics that enable paleontologists to differentiate male skeletons from female ones. The only relevant physical advantage that women possess is that they are apparently less subject to altitude sickness. Since they have proportionally more body fat, they also endure cold better.
62. Women during studies carried out failed to negotiate obstacle courses and could not climb a rope. Nor could women throw a hand-grenade, that weapon par excellence of future urban warfare, to the minimum distance necessary so that they would not be blown to pieces themselves, with the result that training with it either had to be cancelled or turned into a meaningless charade.
63. American army study of 124 men and 186 women found that women were more than twice as likely to suffer leg injuries and nearly five times as likely to suffer fractures as men; injury also caused women to miss five times as many days of duty as men. At the Air Force Academy women visited doctors clinics four times as often as men. They suffered nine times as many shin splints, five times as many stress fractures, and more than five times as many cases of tendinitis. The Australian army also found that, even after physical training standards had been sharply reduced, women continued to be injured twice as often as men; in Canada, only 1 percent of women who entered the standard infantryman’s training graduated.
64. In the years since then, the greater vulnerability of women both to orthopedic trouble and to amenorrhea (which if it persists can lead to sterility and osteoporosis) has been recognised by the world’s most advanced female medical authorities. Other female health experts have emphasized the connection between women’s participation in many different kinds of competitive sport and eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. The list of diseases is topped by infections of the urinary and reproductive tract that result from rough living in the field as well as a 100 percent increase in the miscarriage rate for female sailors serving at sea; this author personally knows one woman who, ignoring physical limitations and straining to keep up with her fellow officers in the US Army during a forced march, lost her ovaries as a result.
65. In colleges and elsewhere, those responsible for devising physical training programmes for women’s sports have long wondered how much is enough? Having tried to train women together with men, and precisely because they are not interested in differences between individuals, for the first time in history the modern military have provided a clear answer: keeping up with most men is too much for almost all women. Making women measure up to the standard as men is grossly unfair; worse, it will lead to a massive waste of resources as a high proportion of women sustain injuries and/or drop out. Conversely, training all personnel to physical standards that most women could meet meant that the men will hardly get any worthwhile training at all.
66. For example, during the period when the US Army engaged in the experiment the name of ‘basic combat training ‘ was changed to ‘basic training’ , whereas time previously devoted to marksmanship had to be dropped in favour of classes in contraception. During Israeli co-ed pre-military training closely it was observed in 1998-09, the female runners present always lagged so far behind their male comrades that the two groups could not even see each other. If, as is usually the case, the training is carried out in remote areas, this may present a threat to the women’s safety and can lead to criminal cases if anything goes wrong. Solving the problem by making everybody run together would mean that the men were to be slowed down. Giving the women a head start could be construed as sexual harassment, especially if they are also used as bait to make them run faster. The same reasons, lack of physical strength on the one hand and fear of harassment on the other, prevented the women from carrying stretchers or being carried on them. In the US forces, and recently in those of Israel as well, one solution to these problems has been to put men and women through similar courses while requiring separate physical standards from each sex. At Britain’s Sandhurst Military Academy a compromise was adopted: in an unsuccessful attempt to disguise the fact that women have an easier time of it, male and female cadets begin and end their training at the same locations but follow a different course in between .Now training that is separate and unequal will lead to some of the personnel being qualified only within limits, which is why, in some international military publications, female soldiers are put in brackets. Moreover, unequal training-whether carried out in common or not- is unfair to the men; they will complain, rightly, that women are allowed to graduate without having to make the same effort and overcome the same obstacles. Since all training standards are, in a sense artificial, the outcome is certain to be either an erosion of those standards or a situation where men’s training is turned into a mockery and a humiliation; most likely, if they have the choice, they will prefer to drop out.
67. Women continue to receive preferential treatment. In Belgium female soldiers were barred by law from carrying out dangerous and insalubrious jobs such as trench-digging, handling lead-containing dies, and working in pressure chambers. In Israel women are conscripted for less than two years versus three for men.[22]
68. Now anyone caught touching (or, under some interpretations attempting to touch) a female soldier with the aim of straightening a tie or adjusting a belt while on parade put himself at risk of being accused of ‘sexual harassment’ .A male soldier who did not greet a female soldier effusively enough could also be accused of ‘sexual harassment’ .In the US and Canada things reached the point where a male soldier could be court-martialled simply for looking at a female once too often, or for too long, or in the ‘wrong’ way. Even if the charge failed to stick, the man’s career would probably be over. As happened, for example, in 1995 when President Clinton had a navy caption and admiral- designate who had been acquitted taken off the promotion list.[23]
69. The Gulf War did illustrate why the dilution of training standards is such a serious matter, even for recruits destined for noncombat positions. It introduced the concept of “360-degree war,” in which there is no real “front.” (Witness the 13 soldiers in a supply unit supposedly far from the front who were killed in their barracks by a Scud missile.) In this type of conflict, even cooks and supply sergeants must be capable of defending themselves. In a “360-degree war everybody has to be able to do anything,” according to Marine Gen. Jim Mattis. He tells Gutmann how one of his supply units in the Gulf, seemingly far from the action, suddenly found itself fending off a surprise Iraqi armored attack. As one drill sergeant tells Gutmann, “Who’s defending your airfield? Your support weenies!” And even much non combat military work is still rigorous physical activity that requires upper body strength. “In the Gulf War,” Gutmann writes, “physical disparities were often glaring: men in many units took over tearing down tents or loading boxes because most of the women simply couldn’t or wouldn’t do these chores as fast.”[24]
70. Besides the practical problems, the double standards introduced by gender integration have had a corrosive effect on morale. An example is “gender-normed” standards on yearly physical tests. A high score on the test can be very helpful at promotion time; unfortunately, the women’s standards are far lower than the men’s, which naturally leads to a great deal of resentment. As a former JAG lawyer tells Gutmann, “It’s one of the great paradoxes. . . . On the one hand, we’re going to throw them together saying they’re all the same, and then there are a million little exceptions and rules to keep [women] apart and treat them special.”
71. The concept invoked by the school to describe its new lemons-to-lemonade attitude was “assimilation.” The goal was to welcome female cadets into the vmi[25] environment without fundamentally altering the school’s essence. vmi was determined to avoid repeating the mistakes of the service academies (which had allowed the integration of women to degrade their standards and change their culture) as well as the example of another famous southern military school, The Citadel. (Shannon Faulkner, the first female cadet at The Citadel, was so overwhelmed by the hostile response of her male classmates that she dropped out within days). To say that planning for “assimilation” was a challenging process would be an understatement. The committee had to consider whether to give women the same buzz-cuts as the men; whether to use the same standards for pull-ups on the school’s fitness test; whether to jettison certain traditional vmi jargon (for instance, vmi cadets reported for misconduct are said to have been “boned”). They even had to consider how the intricate details of the female menstrual cycle would necessitate changes in physical training or vmi’s traditionally open showers.The early evidence suggests that vmi has weathered the transition well for the most part. Rather than bend over backwards to change the institution to accommodate women, as the U.S. military has done, vmi has done an admirable job of maintaining its tough standards and attracting motivated women who are willing to meet those standards. Yet vmi has also faced many of the same challenges as the military, such as trying to resolve the contradiction of stressing total unit cohesion between genders while simultaneously stressing the dangers of sexual harassment. And though the arrival of women has not brought about the destruction of vmi that its defenders once predicted, many cadets still feel that something important has been lost — some unique quality that motivated 18 year-old boys to forgo four years of their prime days for four years of discipline and sacrifice.
72. Making a small beginning in ensuring a greater role for women in the armed forces, the Indian government today decided to grant permanent commissions in select cadres to those who are inducted via the short service commission route. “The government has decided to grant permanent commission, prospectively, to short service commission officers, both men and women, in branches and cadres of the three services that do not entail direct combat or possibility of physical contact with enemy,” a Defence Ministry statement said. Defence Minister A K Antony approved the move today, the statement added. However, the larger issue of opening up the portals of training establishments like the National Defence Academy (NDA) and the Indian Military Academy (IANS) to women has yet to be addressed. “A beginning has been made. Other issues will be addressed down the line,” a Defence Ministry official said. Among the cadres in which women will be granted permanent commissions are the Judge Advocate General’s branch and the Army Education Corps and their corresponding branches in the navy and the air force, the accounts branch of the air force and construction branch of the navy. “The selection will be based on a common merit and eligibility criteria that would be decided by each service headquarters,” the statement said. A tri-service study carried out in 2006 on all aspects of service conditions of women officers in the services recommended that they be excluded from induction in close combat arms where chances of physical contact with the enemy was high. “It was further recommended that it was essential to obtain feedback on their performance based on revised pre-commission training, from 24 weeks to 49 weeks, detailment on courses such as Junior Command Course and assessment of their performance as sub-unit commanders, especially in field areas, for holding higher ranks and the grant of a permanent commission,” the statement said. “A gestation period of 10-14 years was considered essential to assess on-ground performance of women offices before the issue of permanent commission or otherwise could be examined,” the statement added. “The service headquarters, who were asked to re-examine the issue, had only a few days ago recommended granting of permanent commission to short service commission officers in select cadres and branches, it said. [26]
73. But there are always two sides to a coin. Therefore the same is applicable to this discussion too. We will now summarise the two versions before recommending the way ahead.
74. Environments Opinion.
It is a universally accepted fact that militaries are not created to generate employment and hence have nothing to do with gender equality. They are tasked to ensure national defence and that is the sole reason for their existence. They need only the fittest – men or women. Armed forces require personnel who are physically strong and mentally robust to be able to handle battle-field pressures. The fighting potential of a force depends fundamentally on its cohesion, mutual trust and faith in the leadership. Nothing should be done to weaken these traits.The whole concept of women’s induction in the services has to be viewed in a holistic and objective manner. The first step should be to ascertain whether the required preconditions, as mentioned above, exist to warrant women’s entry into the Indian services. Here is a brief appraisal:
(a) In India the number of male volunteers is overwhelming.
(b) India is still a second generation technology force which is trying desperately to graduate to the third generation, whereas the US and the Western nations are already well into the fourth generation. Indian defence forces are manpower intensive needing physical ground effort in all types of inhospitable terrain and adverse climate conditions.
(c) Indian society is passing through a phase of transition from traditionalism to modernity. Societal and cultural ethos continues to be mired in sex discrimination.
(d) A major part of the Indian Army is deployed on combat duties at all times. Peace tenures are rare and there are very few periods of comparative lull.
(e) In view of the above, the following are suggested:
(i) Women must continue to play a dominant role in the Armed Forces Medical Services. They have done India proud by rising to three-star ranks. Their contribution to the organisation has been of a very high order.
(ii) Their expertise, talent and dedication should be profitably utilised in areas which are totally non-combat in nature and where their competence can be fully harnessed. As is being done at present, they should continue to serve in supporting arms and logistics.
(iii) A majority of uniformed officers in the Survey of India, Military Engineering Service Militarised Cadre, Director General of Quality Assurance and such organisations should be women. The current provision for 14 years service should remain in force.
(iv) The current policy of non-induction of women in combat arms should now be reviewed. The induction to combat arms should be voluntary based without sacrificing the physical and mental standards.
(v) The services are not opposed to the entry of women per se but demand that a number of crucial issues, as discussed above, be addressed as well. Decisions which have a far reaching effect on the functioning of the armed forces must be taken with due diligence and after a careful study for the national interest has to be supreme.
75. Even as more women entered the forces, those forces were becoming less important to national life both in terms of their size and the number of troops per head of population. The less important the role of services to national life, the harder they found it to attract suitable men and the greater therefore their reliance on women to fill the gaps. The first studies on the subject date to the late 1970s and the early 1980s: they showed that the almost four times as many US enlisted men as women would do anything to get into combat. Conversely, two and a half times as many enlisted women as men would do anything not to go. Women members of an airborne division having had their chance to see war at close quarters not a single one of them wanted to be.
76. To ‘solve’ the problem, it has been suggested that women be commissioned/recruited/ sent into combat only if they volunteer and all of this without compromising on any aspect of military needs.
77. Women Counter-Argument.
With the induction of women, the Services are now coming in line with the mainstream where social change in favour of the female gender began with the freedom movement. The recent induction of women into select branches of the army has had the top brass pondering over the issue whether they as individuals are willing to accept women in the permanent commission cadre. The answer is overwhelmingly negative. The reasons mentioned are given below along with the counter points:
(a) There is no shortage of men in our country. Many are unemployed. Think about them before employing women. Information technology revolution has opened an entire gamut of alternative careers for men where material benefits and climbing the corporate ladder as fast as possible have become the main incentive. The Armed forces have gone down in the priority list as men’s traditional career choice. Thus, the gap in recruitment of motivated men to fill the officer cadre is being filled instead with the rise in the women’s desire to prove them.[27]
(b) Women are weak. Our physical standards will go down if women are allowed in. However it has been found that strength and cardiovascular fitness measurement is something that must be determined on an individual basis. Not all men are physically capable and some women are physically capable of performing combat-related activities. This is not a gender issue but an individual issue as proved by the Military Enlistment Physical Strength Capacity Test (MEPSCAT) conducted by the US Army in 1982.[28]
(c) There is likely to be an adverse psychological impact on our troops who generally hail from rural areas and are orthodox. This perception is fast changing with soldiers, which is evident in words of a soldier serving as a “sahayak”[30]
(d) Women can never withstand demanding and extreme conditions of our deserts, cold and high altitude areas. Already women who have been inducted in the Armed Forces in the short service commission are deployed in these areas serving in the combat support arms, the most recent example being the “OP PARAKRAM” where the complete Armed Forces of the nation were deployed on the borders for over six months.
(e) Army is mobile; women will not be able to keep pace and may cause hindrance when it moves. This has proved to be a misconception as proved during the Gulf War where nearly 7% of the forces deployed were women. Even pregnancy did not affect the conduct of operations. Back home women were deployed in “OP PARAKRAM” in no less than field conditions.
(f) Additional expenditure necessary to create dedicated facilities and infrastructure for women is unjustified. The experiment would involve frittering away of resources. Agreed that going on convoys is a practical problem. There are no toilets. But is that not a basic necessity for everyone including males?
(h) Women would invariably fill those jobs in cities and locations preferred by men returning from hard field areas. Similarly, the low medical category personnel would also be denied choice postings to these places of preference. Once women are inducted into the permanent commission cadre they would have to serve with the unit they are posted to, be it peace or in field. A majority of women wanted to serve with their units and viewed their exclusion from the combat zone prejudicial to their career. Moreover we already have women in the Medical, Nursing and Dental Corps whose posting profiles are fully balanced and we hardly find any heartburns among their male counterparts.
(j) Women are prone to gossip. Their induction will cause breaches in security. Battle of Britain, 1940 exploded many myths and theories that women can’t keep secrets, women won’t work for women; women can’t stand discipline & nervous strain.[31]
(k) Male drinking would become a problem. Women are bound to cause much distraction to men. There are black sheep everywhere and some male officers behave in an unofficer like manner, which is not attributable to women’s presence.
(l) Since we do not have women in other ranks, we cannot have women officers. Who’d they command? Also, how can they be given any command or position of responsibility without combat experience? The issue could be resolved in a later time frame when the Indian Army is ready to induct women in its Other Rank cadre, wherein an organisation on the lines of the WAC (Women Auxiliary Corps) can be explored or nearer home we can replicate example of PMF, i.e., the Mahila Battalion.
(m) If similar numbers are inducted due to above reasons, administrative burdens and impairment of cohesiveness in a formation will affect its operational effectiveness. This has already been proven wrong by the Gulf war experience where a sizeable number of women were deployed and who performed exceedingly well in combat.
Training Recommendations
78. The training must be a conscious effort to impart, improve or increase knowledge and skills and to develop the attitudes and values of an individual in a desired direction. It is a process of developing a person’s effectiveness through carefully selected methods by competent trainers in a suitable learning climate. Training should attempt to develop the right aptitude for the job among the women. The training is imparted both by men & women instructors. However there are very few institutes having women instructors. There is hardly any correlation between the training & the nature of job to be performed by them after the completion of training. This shows that it is necessary, first, to lay down a clear policy with regard to the functions & role which women are expected to play. On it will depend on the kind of training that should be imparted to them. While working out training programmes the level of absorption should also be kept in mind. The Commission has said that certain modifications may have to be made in the physical training programme for the women. Instead of emphasizing the aspects of toughening up & building up physical strength, the training should instill a sense of physical strength, the training should instill sense of self confidence. Training should be designed in such a fashion so as to impress upon the entire strength to behave more like an officer than a women. [34]A comprehensive & realistic account of the functions needs to be drawn.
Summary and Recommendations
79. The first batch of lady officers is out of army after the extension of five years. It has been acknowledged by professional military officers who have served with, or commanded women officers that women are smart, dedicated and technically competent. They are also better educated than their male counterparts. Irrespective of raising a debate between the killing spirit and motherly love, the fact remains that the US Army has still expanded the opportunities for women. Were it not for women, with their superior formal education and mental test scores, their places would have had to be filled by “lower-quality male volunteers.[35]
80. The all volunteer Indian Military of future, resting on the foundation of hi-tech capabilities, cannot hope to fill all its military operational services only through male entrants, more of whom will be attracted towards and absorbed by national growing industrial and technical capabilities. The Indian nation is turning out large number of technically trained Indian women, many of whom can only find opportunities, career and upward social mobility in the military profession. We need to start experimentation the sooner the better. I believe the full integration of women throughout the military is inevitable and the sooner we start, I think, the easier the transition will be.”
81. The Army training instructors found female cadet officers very intelligent, very decisive, very confident, well spoken, adding other superlative adjectives.[37]
82. Air Chief Marshal N C Suri the former Air Chief says, “I could not get the best among men and we suddenly realised women were an excellent option”. The Flag Officer-in-Chief of the Western naval Command thought that in due course, women officers would be posted on sea duties and absorbed in the Executive branch. In the coming years there will be many such realisations by all the three services. Already, the female officers and training institutions have proved wrong, the fears that women may become bed mates or have joined due to economic constraints in words and deeds. I see no reason why a woman shouldn’t combine being a mother and being in the army provided we are sensible about the jobs we send her to. In the light of new experiences and women issues as well as demolition of various myths about women there is every possibility that women officers would obtain permanent commission in the full spectrum.
83. The 88th Mahila Battalion of CRPF is an epitome of courage, bravery and capacity to face danger. The women of this battalion have won laurels as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, and active service in insurgency prone states of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Punjab and other areas. Their record speaks very highly of them and their prowess and chivalry is an indicator of how our women officers in the regular Armed Forces are likely to fare, and even do better under combat conditions, given proper training and equipment.
84. Another case in point is the All Women Police Station in Tamil Nadu, which is the first of its kind in the country complete with a crA¨che and other facilities for the children of the women policemen. And to top it all Tamil Nadu has again taken a lead by raising the first All Women Commando Force to be formed into a Women Commando Battalion. The training programme has given women to prove that they are equal to or even better than their male counterparts. They have put to rest any lingering doubt about physical endurance of women by trekking 38 kilometres in one night. Their shooting skills have received applause from experts as they were on target even while being seated on moving motorcycles or jeeps.
85. The need to think of women soldiers’ career and service needs are now, and not 3-5 years hence. Each entry experience will enable the three Services to refine the career profile, service requirements, personnel management, unit bonding and annual projections to the government. The Indian Military bureaucracy has to rewrite its future policies about personnel, including for the first time women perspectives as well. The future construct of the inducting women into the permanent cadre of the Army would look like this:
(a) Retain the lady officers in the non- fighting branches for the time being, ultimately inducting them into the fighting arms as well.
(b) Induct women into the ranks and ultimately have an organisation on the lines of the Women Auxiliary Corps of the yesteryears, in lines of the CRPF initiative and the most recent experience of the Tamil Nadu police of raising the first all women commando force after the first all women police station. (Times of India jan17)
(c) Open the doors of permanent commission for them and weed out gentlemen and lady officers into BSF, CRPF or Home Ministry after a minimum period of fixed service.
(d) Women’s NCC wing at schools and colleges to be further strengthened to act as feeder institutions imparting basic training, thereby minimising some of the problems of physical limitations in women.
(e) Government to allocate more funds for successfully completing promise of equal opportunity under the Directive Principles of Indian Constitution.
(f) There ought to be a conscious linking of induction of women into the services with their status in the society to bring about a mindset change in both men and women. It can be done through effective media programmes and sensitisation workshops.
(g) All Women Review board for attending to lady officers’ problems and grievances.
(j) Most of the lady officers want to quit service after the childbirth since they find it difficult to effectively discharge both obligations simultaneously. Army must evolve an effective child care system to overcome this genuine hardship.
(k) Service leaders must sustain a campaign to eliminate perceptions, attitudes and behaviours that hinder the full integration of women in the Armed Forces. This must include elimination of dual standards.
(l) Deploy these lady officers according to the needs of the Services and individual’s competence.
(m) Enhance motivation and commitment of these lady officers through professional development systems in terms of opening a variety of officer-military-operational-specialities, officer distribution plan and personnel priority model, including personnel structure and composition system.
(n) An overall career management plan covering short term and long term deployment and employability, including such issues like admission to combat in future.
[1] India News Online, Security Issues, 29 September 09.
[2] Equality for Women in Forces – 25 July 09.
[3] Permanent Commission granted to Women in Forces.
[4] South Asian Journal- From Margin to Mainstream: Barriers to the Integration of Women into Indian Armed Forces.
[5] Women in Indian National Army.
[6] Women and the Use of Military Force- Mady Wechsler Segal.
[7] Squadron Leader E G Jones (RAF) ‘Women in Combat- Historical Quirk or the future cutting edge ?
RUSI Journal August 1993, P. 34
[8] War and Gender-Joshua S Goldstein. Page161.
[10] Women in the Military-Rita James Simon. Page73.
[15] The Times- Women go into Battle.
[16] Air Commodore S M Hundiwala in his article, “Women in the Indian Armed forces- Problems and Prospects”
[17] Women and the Use of Military Force- Mady Wechsler Segal.
[18] Women in the Military, page119.
[19] South Asian Journal- From Margin to Mainstream: Barriers to the Integration of Women into Indian Armed Forces.
[20] Men, Women and War,page152.
[21] Men, Women and War Pp214
[22] Men, Women And War Pp215
[23] War and Gender- Joshua S Goldstien.
[24] Stephanie Gutmann. The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America’s Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? .
[25] Laura Fairchild Brodie. Breaking Out: Virginia Military Institute and the Coming of Women.
[26] News.
[27] Arya Nehal Anita. “Women in Uniform: Gender Dialectics in the Indian Armed Forces (Part I)”, Journal of the United Service Institution of India, Vol. CXXI, No. 543, January – March, pp.125.
[28] Women in the Military, page 112.
[29] Sahayak is a combatant soldier who helps an officer in the upkeep of his uniform and assists in the discharge of his duties during active operations.
[30] Arya Nehal Anita. “Women in Uniform: Gender Dialectics in the Indian Armed Forces (Part II)”, Journal of the United Service Institution of India, Vol. CXXI, No. 544, April – June, pp.280.
[31] Women at War, page 98.
[32] Women in Indian Police, page 34 to 38, 41.
[33] Women in the military, Gender and the Propensity to Enlist in the US Military.
[34] Women in Indian Police, page39 & 45
[35] Moskos Charles. ” Female GI’s in the Field”. Society, September – October 1985, pp.29, 31 – 32.
[36] Women in Uniform by Dr HK Srivastva, Indian Defence Review Jul 92.
[37] Srivastav H K. “Women Soldiers in the Armed Forces”. Indian Defence Review, April 1994, P.60

Warning! This essay is not original. Get 100% unique essay within 45 seconds!


We can write your paper just for 11.99$

i want to copy...

This essay has been submitted by a student and contain not unique content

People also read