Dignity of Women in Army
Dignity of Women in Army
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. . 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. Different set of policies will only affect the working efficiency and interaction between the two genders in the services.
Fore- planning and systematic approach should be the correct approach prior to deciding on any such issue. 2.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. 3. 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. At the same time, the dignity of women shall never be compromised at any cost. The way women are treated in Army should be a benchmark of ideal behaviour towards the women in the society and not otherwise. It is imperative for the men in uniform as well as the society at large to realize the importance of women in uniform and take all the steps to ensure that their ‘Garima’ is maintained and improved at all times. This study seeks to analyse the above issue in Indian context.
(c) Historical Perspective & World Overview.
(d) Employment Problems and Present Status.
(e) Training and Related Aspects.
(f) Future Role Prospects.
(g) Ways to enhance the Garima of Women in uniform.
PART-I: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE AND WORLD OVERVIEW
12. The Indian mythology sources the whole energy in the entire creation to a female deity called Shakti, the consort of Lord Shiva. 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. 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. 13. 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.
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. Australia : 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). Despite this, using 1998-99 figures, the ADF had the highest percentage of women in its employ in the world. 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’.
16. Britain: 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. In 1992 British Army units devoted only to women were disbanded and women were distributed amongst the same units in which men served.
17. Canada : 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. 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. Today women account for close to 13 percent of the total strength of the Canadian forces.
18. Denmark: 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. 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.
20. France: 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: Germany had employed one of the most conservative gender-policies of any NATO country. 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.
22. Israel: 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.
25. United States:The United States is considered a pioneer 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.
28. Sweden: 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.
PART II – EMPLOYMENT PROBLEMS AND PRESENT STATUS
“Men are the historic authors of organised violence.”
Jean Bethke Elshtain,1987
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. 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. The Center for Military Readiness stated that “Female soldiers who are, on average, shorter and smaller than men, with 45-50% less upper body strength and 25-30% less aerobic capacity, which is essential for endurance”. Many ask the question that if women are unable to perform at the same level as the male counterparts, then how can we expect them to outperform their enemy who is most likely male because even with training and testing there are strong reservations about women as combat soldiers.
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. Another aspect that creates unrest is likely physical intimacy between both genders which can affect a unit’s fighting capability. A third argument cited is that their being captured and tortured is unacceptable, since they are likely to be more prone to give away of info in order to save their physical sanctity. Many also argue that by not incorporating women into combat, we are not tapping into another source of soldiers for military combat operations. These sources claim that we are creating a military that treats are women as second-class citizens and not equals of men.
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. 38. Prisoners’ of War. In the military’s last three major conflicts, the Falklands, Bosnia and the Gulf, there have always been POWs; one can presume that during the next conflict, and there will be one, things will not be that much different. 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.
PART III – MAJ 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”. 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. 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. The formal exclusion of women from the Fighting Arms has a serious limiting effect on the career prospects as the path to command and positions of authority at senior levels is through these specialties. Further though women are routinely employed in field areas in various support roles, they are not permitted to units in field that have any operational commitment or face any enemy threat. 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. Trg & Related Aspects. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.”
PART IV- FUTURE ROLE PROSPECTS
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.  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.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 26 November 2016
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