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Role Of Women In The Indian Armed Forces History Essay


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In recorded human history women soldiers have been part of each and every campaign, performing variety of tasks such as ammunition carriers, picking up a weapon of a fallen soldier, washing, mending and cooking. World war II, Vietnam war and technological revolutions affected intake of male recruits in Europe, Asian armies and USA that led to induction of women soldiers to fill the vacancies. The USA has the highest representation of nearly 14 percent women soldiers today, many of whom participated in the Gulf wars. Other European armies also have a healthy number of women soldiers in the armed forces. China has also integrated women into the military over the last 50 years. The pioneers of the integration of the women in South Asia, both in officers and ranks was the Sri Lankan armed forces in year 1984 , followed by India in officers rank in 1991 and Nepal in 2003. India's decision to induct women officers was based on populist consideration than military necessities. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan employ women basically in medical role. [1] 

The recent SC ruling and HC judgement to allow permanent commission [2] to women has made all the three services to think as to the future role of women in Indian Armed Forces. The induction of women in Indian Army started with the Grant of Short Service Commission (SSC) for 5 years in the year 1991. Then the time limit for them to serve in the army as been increased over the years and is presently at 14 years. Presently women officers are getting commissioned into the services ie ASC, AOC, EME and combat support arms of Engrs, Signals and AAD, in addition to the Medical Corps. In accordance with the ruling of the apex court the Indian Army has agreed to grant permanent commission to women officers in JAG branch, Army Education Corps and Medical Corps of the Army. However, a number of litigation has been filed for grant of permanent commission into fighting arms like infantry and comb support arm such as Engineers, Artillery, AAD etc. However, before any decision is taken we need to carry out a holistic vew of the integration of women into the Army with two important guiding factors.

3. The debate to integrate women into in more "non-traditional" roles in the military have been raging since ages. Both for or against this topic have iron clad reasons. [3] On one hand some people believe that the increased power of military technology and Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) have led to the realisation that actual confrontation between major powers to be avoided, however any future conflicts would be under the umbrella of technology. This would involve a tech savy force and hence larger employment for women. Also the role of women in our society has changed over time. Also women have served in armed forces since ancient times and the chorus for their integration have only grown louder. In Indian history also numerous examples of women soldiers and officers exists. Rani of Jhansi Brigade of Indian National Army (INA) was formed on 9 Sep 1943 in Singapore under Capt Lakshmi Swaminathan Sehgal who was a doctor by profession. This force operated in the jungles of Malay and was very effective. Also the Nursing Corps of the Indian Army was raised in march 1889 and by 1939-40 their strength grew to 6000 trained nurses. These nurses had served British and Indian troops in India, Aden, Mesopotamia and Egypt during World War I and during World War II they served exceptionally well in different theatres of war in Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Far East. History is replete with stories of women in battle. [4] Not only in the western world, but also in the eastern, several examples of the battle are there where women have actively participated. Indian sub-continent also has an age long of history of battles participated by women. Although military profession is considered as the male-dominated occupation, women have also played such a diverse role that possibility of their involvement in any military duties can not be neglected.

4. Society has traditionally viewed women as out of place both in organisations responsible for the implementation of military force and in applying lethal force as individuals. The use of lethal force is so strongly associated with the ideas of masculinity that the ability to use it is one of the defining traits of mankind. War is traditionally viewed as a masculine enterprise in this man dominated society. Military service has long been a masculine rite of passage. Men have traditionally sought to idealistically fight for peace, home and family. They want to protect women and not to compete with them. The soldier's world has traditionally been a masculine haven. Their accession into a predominantly gender segregated institution like military has been protected by both law and cultural tradition in most of the countries.

5. The human achievements in the field of science and technology has changed not only the human lifestyle but has also helped to change the world order. Military activities including the organisations, roles, responsibilities and threats have also been changed with the changes that have taken place in various other sectors of life. There are lots of roles that can be played equally or even more efficiently by women in the armed forces in comparison with the men. [5] This study will try to find out the most suitable roles for the women in the armed forces and suggest whether the women could be employed as combatants in the armed forces or not.

6. With the induction of women the Services are now coming in line with the main stream, where social change in favour of the female gender began with the freedom movement. Yet, at the same time, it cannot be ignored that since the Armed Forces are extremely high-profiled, a dramatic change like this would indeed filter down to the common masses of India. There could not be a more positive experiment than this, for it has not only professional advantages for many women but also sociological benefits for them and the nation as a whole. Of course like anything new it would have teething problems. However, a mature democracy like India and it's people know that given time any experiment can be molded to the advantage of everyone.

Statement of Problem

7. To study and analyse the role of women in Infantry and effect on morale and op effectiveness of frontline units.

Justification of the Study

8. The role of women in the armed forces for a long time, was limited to the medical profession i.e. doctors and nurses. In 1992, the doors were thrown open for women entry as regular officers in aviation, logistics, law, engineering and executive cadres. Thousands of spirited young women applied against advertisements and it was a turning point in the history of time. These women chose a new field where they had to painstakingly pave a path for the others to follow. The initial adjustment problems weren't as much for the women as it was for the men. Wrapped in their tradition of chivalry and respect to women, most gentlemen officers could not treat their female counterparts at par with themselves. [6] Their subordinates too, were men who came from conservative families where they saw women playing only traditional roles. The emergence of these women into totally male dominated bastions did initially create embarrassing moments for both. Men hushed their talks and behaved courteously, while women had to do with makeshift arrangements to suit their needs within units. Over the years and having come a long way now, men have realized that these women in uniform are their efficient and able co-workers. The time is not far when we may use the term 'sisters-in-arms' as equivalent to 'brothers-in-arms'.

9. Currently, women in the non-medical cadre, serve as Short Service Commissioned (SSC) officers. Under this type of commission, they can serve in the armed forces for a period ranging from 5-14 years. On release they can pursue a career in the civil sector. Now women have start clamouring for opening up of the permanent commission in the armed forces and also to be part of Infantry units to ensure equality of opportunity. Employment of women in combat has become a hot issue at present. Two different schools of thought do exist amongst the scholars. The first claim that women are equally capable of men to perform the job and it's the matter of equality also, whereas the supporters of latter idea claim that it is the exploitation of women to employ in combat because they are not physically and psychologically fit to perform the job. This debate needs to be carried out in detail.

10. There are numerous examples of women taking part in battles in the past. Indeed, throughout human history, most societies have kept women from fighting with the frontline troops. Those women who fought were often forced by circumstances or were given a chance only when men were in short supply. In essence, most societies have restricted women from serving in the military as they have restricted them from other male-dominated occupations. [7] 

11. This study is prompted by a soldier scholar's long abiding interest in the subject triggered off by great interaction with some ardent feminists of the National Cadet Corps during his college years. The aim of this study is to analyse the issues involved in the Indian context on the induction of women as personal below officers rank in the Army, blanking out the interference of noise and dust raised by over enthusiastic social scientists, ivory tower scholars and militant feminists, to bring out the core issues involved.


12. In this study a brief historical perspective of women in combat roles will be discussed followed by roles performed by the women in the armed forces. Women's involvement in insurgency and the requirement and employment of women in combat will be the major aspect of the study.

Methods of Data Collection

13. The research methodology adopted for this study is by descriptive and analytical method. The sources of this study are the books, periodicals and newspapers available in the Defence Services Staff College library. Similarly the other sources include internet web pages, previous studies in the similar field and some informal interaction with the student officers from various countries attending the 68th staff course. The Bibliography of sources is appended at the end of text.

Organisation of the Study

14. The study is presented in nine chapters as under:-


Historical Perspective

Issues involved in inducting women in the frontlines units in armed forces.

Expanded role prospects.

Experiences of women in combat.

Summary and recommendations.




" As the ladies clad in their saries marched past to the sound of the bugle and the beatings of the drum, there could be traced not a touch of all the frailties that are so commonly attributed to them. No faltering, no hesitancy, no softness associated in popular minds with the womanhood of Bengal but chivalry written on every face and manifest in every movement."

Colonel Latika Ghosh.

15. Mythology is replete with instances of warrior women who were revered, worshipped like the `Shakti', consort of Shiva the Destroyer, mother of all warriors, and who manifested herself as Durga the warrior goddess, to fight and destroy evil. The Greek Goddess Athena, the Roman Diana, the Nordic Valkyries and the Amazons are cases in point.

16. The ancient Greeks, for example, Amazons so dedicated to warfare that each one of hem cut off one of their breast to improve her ability to shoot and throw spears. The Americans can point to colonist Margaret Corbin who, during the British attack on Fort Washington in the Revolutionary War, operated a cannon until she was seriously wounded. In the history of women in battle there is a combination of myth and exaggeration, sprinkled with a few true heroic accounts of unique women. Through out history, most societies have banned women from military service. As was the case in Soviet Union during World War II. . [8] 

17. Instances of warrior women are scattered all over history. The Celtic Queen Boadicea, Joan of Arc of France and nearer home Razia Sultan, Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, Kittur Chinnamma Rani Durgawati of Gondwana, Chand bibi of Ahmednagar are good examples of women fighters. Our freedon movement is replete with examples of courageous women leaving the "Chaar Diwari" of their household to secure freedom from the British - Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Devi Chattopadhya, Aruna Asaf Ali, Sucheta Kriplani, revolutionaries like Durga Bhabhi, Bina Das, Shanti Gosh and Suniti Chaudhary2 and in the Indian National Army, 'Colonel' Latika Ghosh and 'Captain' Lakshmi Sah­gal Kshatriya are just a few of the prominent names.

18. But despite all the above, the number of women warriors is minuscule. This highlights the fact that due to whatever physiological or sociological reasons, society at large evolved a role for the women in professions of nurture and culture rather than soldiering. We hear of women, as great mothers, wives and sisters who have nurtured famous warriors more than as famous generals or leaders of men in battle. This becomes obvious when one notices that no force of soldiery ever travelled far without its detachment of wives, concubines and hangers on, who cheerfully shouldered the burdens of washing, mending, cooking and generally pandering to the creature comforts, which have been the indispensable requirement of contended troops.

19. Nations world over have in recent times taken the momentous decision to admit women into the regular cadres of the armed forces. This raises the query of why women are being brought into the realms of soldiery. One does not have to look deep to fathom the reasons for this development. The increasing presence of women in the Armed Forces can be traced to the beginning of this century in European history, wherein, the World Wars created an acute shortage of manpower, forcing nations to call upon their women to supplement their forces. Women were inducted in large numbers into the softer military specialities like ordinance factory workers, rear area services, logistic support, nurses, doctors, staff car driver, et al; relieving the able bodied men to 'feed the cannons'.

20. In Britain women gained recognition in Women's Auxiliary Service as early as 1916 upto the midst of World War I. The erstwhile Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Vietnam have permitted uninhibited participation of women in combat. Amongst the western countries, Canada, Australia, and Denmark are the most liberal in induction of women in their Armed Forces even for combat roles. In Netherlands all posts are optional for women. The Dutch have had to impose demanding physical standards for some "men's only" jobs. [9] 

21. Canada opened its Armed Forces to women at the behest of Royal commission on status of women in 1970. A five-year programme called 'SWINTER' (Service Women In Non Traditional Environment and Roles), launched to assess their suitability in combat roles demolished many myths and inhibitions which led to Canada's Human rights Tribunal to demand full integration for women and abolish 10% quota of vacancies reserved for them.

22. In Soviet Russia, where all kinds of feminine labour prevailed, out of sheer imbalance in sex ratio, a bulk of women were allowed to join the Army. A welcome side effect of this enforced "equality" was improved physical strength of Russian women and their robust character. In China the anti-female practices abetted by Confucius, Liu Shao Chi and Lin Piao were denounced as 'archaic' and to ensure equality to women the Chinese leadership promoted their wide participation in women's militia, who provided armed support to political leadership against any possible counter revolution from 'old vested interests'. [10] 

23. In more recent times the Israelis pressed by sheer paucity of numbers have enforced a virtual draft on unmarried women to occupy posts from where men could be released to move to front positions. In France the intake of women is divided into combat and non-combat roles in the three services and the Gendarmerie on long-term contract. Turkey, which is predominantly Islamic, has women in her regular Armed Forces. In Sep 90 King Fahd of Saudi Arabia approved a role for women in the Saudi Armed Forces.This has been followed by United Arab Emirates.10 In Iraq too, during the Iran-Iraq war, President Saddam Hussain, in an effort to strengthen more loyal Baathist Militias, enlisted some quarter million women into their women's wings. Arming them much against the wishes of religious factions, he proudly hailed this force as the most liberated in the muslim world.

Domestic Scene

At the time of constitution making, the equality of women (Article 14), discrimination against them (Article 15) and equal opportunity for employment (Article 16) were thoroughly dealt with in accordance with the obtaining social ambience. It was considered prudent to insert Articles 16(3) and 33 in order to exempt our Armed Forces from the provisions of the Fundamental Rights with regard to employment of women. The contemporaneous leadership of that era accepted norms of equality. The fact that the post - Independence Indian thinking was so over optimistic about the future of non-use of army itself that any idea of women's participation in it must have looked ludicrous to many a statesmen. That position still continues and the constitutional provision remains binding. The Army Act and the Air Force Act of 1950, the Navy act of 1957, stipulate that women are ineligible for enrolment and any deviation to this proviso could only be made through a special notification. A government sanction is thus mandatory for all cases of entry of women to our Armed Forces. Existing employment of women in the army Medical Corps (AMC) and the Army Dental corps (ADC) has been regularised. This legal barrier is not difficult to overcome but no organisation, group or a forum has so far felt any compulsion to challenge it. Absence of public opinion to modify the regulation that has over a period of time become irrelevant is only helping those who opine that we (Indians) are not ready to allow women in our Armed Forces. The constitutional allowance to keep women from joining military service has been conveniently used by our service headquarters to ward off whatever pressure there is from the hopefuls amongst female population. Thu this urge of the latter is not a recent phenomenon. [11] 

In the modern day of electronic warfare, it's more about overcoming stress in warfare than physical combat. It has been proven scientifically that women handle stress better and are also mentally tougher. This is not to undermine a woman's physical capability. Women have done extremely well in physical training as well. In the first few batches at the armed forces training academies women displayed more endurance and some even outran their male counterparts in cross-country runs and long distance marches. [12] They carry on this tradition and keep setting new records. As commissioned officers at the age of 22-23 years, they may often have subordinates older than their parents. Hence, from day one, it is a challenge and leadership qualities are under test. The color of their crisp uniforms and the stars/stripes they adorn differentiate them from each other. Despite the good quality of life, they may sometimes undergo hardships due to the nature of work. An officer may have to work in tough terrains or difficult circumstances. Most women however, who undergo training as cadets in various military academies, cope up with various difficult situations, easily. Being a transferable job, transfers and movements are seen as unique travel opportunities to travel to remotest locations in the country. Every unit is a mini-India with people and cultures as diverse. As most lady officers are married to gentlemen officers in the armed forces, as per government policies, they are transferred together. Women officers can also avail of maternity leave; furlough and annual leave in succession, to cater to pre and post-natal care. On retirement too, they enjoy medical facilities and coveted club memberships. They can afford to maintain the same quality of life due to the various benefits they can avail of. Their experience and qualities imbibed while in service make them much in demand in the private sector. Although the path these women have chosen is tough, they have proved that they have the spirit, the courage and the will to carry on. Presently, women do not serve in combat arms nor do they fly fighter aircrafts, but it won't be long before these forbidden avenues are thrown open to them. [13] 



26. The Indian experiment of permitting women in the regular cadres of the three services is very recent. There is hardly any previous study on the subject of women in the Indian Army as commissioned officer in general and a permanent commissioned officer in particular, rising to the ranks of a General. Naturally, therefore any discussion on the subject has to draw upon a great deal, from the available material based on the concepts and experiences of the Western Armies. Most of the issues are not culture specific but rather gender based, hence if not all, a majority of issues concerning women in uniform are likely to apply across the board to Indian women in military services as well.

There are two points that must be analysed before we can properly address the question of whether or not women should be granted permanent commission in the officer cadre. Firstly, the nature of the army as an institution and secondly, the nature of working environment itself according to career profile. If the army was just a job, and if justice and equal opportunity was all that was at stake, there would be no opposition to opening up all opportunities to every one. After all, women have demonstrated their competence in all areas of society, from medicine and the law to business and the academies. [14] They have benefited from capitalism and technology. The lifting of legal barriers against women in the civilian workplace has merely ratified the technological advances that have rendered physical strength less important than intellect, an area in which women are equal to men. Thus today a woman, who is willing to bear the equal burden that men have traditionally borne, can achieve whatever goals she desires. [15] 

The Nature Of Army

The Army necessarily differs from civil society. A liber­al democracy like ours faces a paradox when it comes to relationship between the military situations as such and society at large. The military is not governed in accordance with prin­ciples of justice and liberalism that characterize the very society it defends. Behaviour that is acceptable, indeed even protected in civil society is prohibited in the military. The military restricts the freedom of movement of its member. It restricts speech, prohibits certain relationships between members, such as fraternization. Why? Because if the military fails, the society it protects may not survive. Experience has taught us that certain behaviour is destructive of good order, discipline and morale, without which a military organisation will certainly fail. The goal of military policy is military effectiveness.

Hence two sets of values are on a collision course. Military and Civil. Equality and opportunity are noble ideals but they have no place in the battlefield where it is a question of living and dying. This was succinctly summed up by American Marine Corps General Robert Barrow in a Senate hearing, "... It is not about women's rights, equal opportun­ity, and career assignments for enhancement purposes for selec­tion to higher work. It is about combat effectiveness, combat readiness, and so we are talking National Security".

Nature Of Working Environment

Since the services have only seen the presence of men (except on the medical side), gentlemen officers have an attitude problem which prevents them from accepting ladies among them as co officers and this is bound to aggravate if these ladies were competing with gentlemen officers for promotions as well. However the fact that the gentlemen officers have the choice of a permanent commission gives them a professional security. Although they perceive the lady officers as a short-term threat now, it will aggravate once this threat becomes a long-term threat. Further, the socio - cultural pattern of patriarchal domination prevents the gentlemen officers from accepting lady officers as social equals. Traits that are chauvinistically associated by men for women in society are piled upon the lady officers as well. Whereas for those lady officers to whom a career in the services is what they want to do in life; the sense of job insecurity is like a Damocles Sword hanging over their heads. Many don't know exactly what they will do after having served in a career which is high commitment and high risk one and gives them prestige, status and perks that would no longer be there once they leave the service. [16] 

Further during the service years of a gentlemen officer in the army, be it supporting arm or combat arm, he is on a whirlwind tour of the country to include the inhospitable high altitude terrain of the North, the dry sultry sand dunes of the deserts in the West, the rain and leech infested jungles of the Northeast and long tenures of deployment on the International Border or the Line of Control without even the basic necessities of life. Under such conditions when the lady officers are also expected to stand by the side of their male counterparts notwithstanding the occupational hazards draws out certain physical and physiological issues involved with their behaviour.

The issues thrown up are:-

Physical and physiological issues.

Unit Cohesion and Military Effectiveness.

Sociological issues.

Administrative issues.

Physical Issues

Women if granted commission in Infantry may be called upon to serve in combat zone sometime or the other, in her career. The most common reason for opposing women in combat is that they largely lack the physical strength to perform effectively in a combat environ­ment. Studies conducted in the United States have observed that on average men are 40 percent stronger than women. Contrary to what some seem to believe, technology has not overcome the importance of physical strength in the Army. Brawn will count for more than `computer smarts' any day. It is felt that when women cannot meet the requirements or rigours of a job; men must take up the slack. [17] 

Body Composition / Muscular Strength / Cardio-Respiratory Capacity. The West point and General Accounting Office (GAO) studies reveal that body composition (both physical and anatomic) favors men. Specifically women experience more difficulty in lifting heavy loads, road marching, carrying loads, running and throwing than men do. Women generally require more time to perform these tasks. Additionally they must perform at higher percentage of their physical abilities, leading to earlier fatigue. The reasons are that they have less muscle mass, more fat, which accumulates on buttocks, arms and thighs which lowers the center of gravity offering more resistance when running. They have less bone mass, wider pelvic structure and lower aerobic capacity than men. [18] 

Injury. Research findings have indicated a high risk for injuries during Army basic combat training. During training, 51% of women and 27% of men were injured which was related to a lower level of fitness when compared to men and resulted in an average time loss of 13 days training. During this study, women participated in an integrated conditioning programme and completed extensive road marches wearing combat boots. Incidence of injury was related to greater body weight and body fat and limited leg strength. [19] 

Physiological Issues

Pregnancy is a major female health issue, which contributes to major attrition among women in the Army. During pregnancy, women's duties are often severely curtailed. This curtailment typically includes: no field duty, limited physical training, limited standing at attention. Many women experience severe premenstrual syndromes. This problem can be potentially dysfunctional for units with many lady officers. This is especially true if there is an involuntary tendency for women living in close quarters to synchronize their menstrual cycles. [20] 

However in an interview during the Gulf War some women soldiers who got pregnant told no one and stuck it out because "they did not want to let their team down". Other women soldiers had their babies and six months later rejoined their units. Women in Army advocates argue that the average woman is pregnant for a very small portion of her productive life. There are many women who never become pregnant. They argue that data are inconclusive about pain and discomfort of menstruation. Rather women are more conscious of their health problems than men which explains a higher incidence of routine medical visits by women than men. [21] 

Legal Issues

The Constitutions in most developed countries including India provide for equality in law, rights and opportunities. Most statutes are founded on the needs and requirements of the persons covered by the concerned statute with the aspira­tion to, 'benefit the maximum number of people with minimum of effect to those not benefited by it. To enact a law to reserve a place for women in the armed forces would go against the very grain of the principle of 'Best man/woman for the job' and jeopardise the security of the nation. [22] 

Unit Cohesion And Military Effectiveness

Physical strength notwithstanding, there is an even more basic reason for opposing women in the officer's rank and that is men treat women differently than they treat other men. This can and usually does have a negative effect on unit cohesion, morale and discipline, all of which are absolutely critical to the success of a military organisation.

The source of this cohesion is a bond among disparate individuals who have nothing in common other than facing death and misery together. Numberless soldiers have died, more or less willingly not for country or honour on religious faith or for any other abstract good, but because they realised that by fleeing their posts and rescuing themselves, they would expose their companions to greater danger. Such loyalty to the group is the essence of fighting morale. Comrades are loyal to each other spontaneously and without any need for reasons. The presence of women disrupts the process of ` bonding' that underlies Unit cohesion. Men may try to protect women at the expense of the overall mission or engage sexual competition, both of which undermine the bond. 'Male bonding' is an abstract thing, yet it is the glue that holds fighting units together and allows them to do the impossible.

Feminist and their allies would argue that male protectiveness and potential for sexual tension and competition are the result of a lack of education and insen­sitivity to women. They also claim that opponents of racial integration into the army employed the bonding argument as it occurred in the United States Army in the early fif­ties. This will disappear in due course with greater interac­tion and progressive training; as it happened in the Gulf War between men and women soldiers. There were some 41,000 women deployed in the Gulf war between August 1990 and February 1991 which made up to 7% of all military personnel deployed including reservists. Thirteen women died due to hostile action, 21 were wounded and two soldiers spent time as prisoners of war.

The point to be highlighted here is that, like racial prejudices and in the Indian context class and caste at­titudes, are learned and can be changed; relationship bet­ween sexes are qualitatively different. Men cannot simply treat women like other men. It is a folly to think that a few months training can make them into some kind of sexless soldiers. No amount of sensitivity training or brain washing can alter human nature. The Communists proved this at an unbelievable cost. They could not make new socialist men or women who would respond as effectively and efficiently to administrative commands as to natural market incentives. They killed millions of people trying to change human nature. It did not work. [23] 

Sociological Issues

Fraternisation. Put young men and women together for long stretches in moonlit desert and they'll do what's natural". This was a popular refrain of commanders during the Gulf War when asked about the reason for the high pregnancy rates. Fraternisation can be detrimental to the morale of an organi­sation. Fraternisation between men and women who are both members of the same unit in close working and living conditions is but inevitable. This would create sexual tensions within the unit. The problem would be basically caused by the males who are conditioned to treat women as objects of desire than working companions. Another aspect to this is that certain women may 'turn tricks' to gain for themselves, cushy appointments or promotions thus compromising the chain of command and causing resentment amongst colleagues.

Rape of Women Prisoners of War. A major social issue involves the potential for sexual violation of women who are captured. Opponents of women in Armed Forces have frequently voiced these concerns while proponent's say that any prisoner of war be it male or female is subject to severe tribulations. Even male prisoners of war are sometimes subject to sexual viola­tion and the women prisoners of war being raped should be considered a form of torture, which all prisoners are liable to be subject to by unscrupulous enemies, contrary to Geneva conventions. Hence undue concern should not be expressed on this account. In fact when the subject was being debated by the popular press an Indian lady wrote in the Hindustan Times "The one and only fear a female soldier can envisage in combat is being taken prisoner.........but that is tragically happening to ordinary women all around us".11 In fact women are more likely to be raped, physically or sexually assaulted, beaten and/or killed in their own homes at the hands of a loved one than anywhere else or by anyone else in our society. Major Cornum, who was taken as prisoner of war after her Black hawk helicopter crashed during OP Desert Storm, due to ant-aircraft fire, stated that ' being raped by the enemy should be considered an occupational hazard of going to war ". [24] 

Marriage and Family. Marriage and subsequent arrival of children are major turning points in the careers of service women. In contrast, the men who also experience these very events while in service remain quite unaffected by these occurrences. Other aspects of service life that bother women are enforced separation from their families, traditional inflexibility of working hours, excessive regimentation of social life (particularly the evening functions at the messes which are more treated like a `parade with emphasis on dress time, ban on children, scant regard to late nights etc) and lack of schooling facilities. The last all-to-common problem is a different cup of tea for a service woman who, unlike men, cannot just send the spouse away with children to a place where schooling is available.

Therein the issue of woman as the nurturer versus the war fighter comes to the fore time and again. `Mothers against War' organizer, Daughtry says " Military needs to sort out and sort through who can best leave to serve the country without doing havoc to the families back home". The women may be volunteers but not the children, quote from a poignant scene from the Gulf War: "It was a sight we will never forget; children desperately clinging to their mothers before they were shipped off to war. No one who saw the painful emotional exchange between the first women deployed to the Persian Gulf and their child could remain unaffected. And many question whether mothers should be leaving their families for war at all." [25] 

However Lorry M. Fenner has observed that to a 'new woman' there were no women issues. Women wanted to strike a balance between their private and public lives - between the lure of fame and glory and a love of home and hearth. According to her, in 1950s, women were 'family oriented'; in the 1970s they became 'career oriented'; and in the 1990s they want a balance between and are confident to do the both. Hence child rearing has become less a preoccupation than an improvisation, housework less an obsession than a chore. They want "you" to change and not them; the "you" represents a male, a corporate body, a government institution, or a business house.

Administrative Issues

It is often argued by opponents of induction of women in the army, that additional expenditure necessary to create dedicated facilities and infrastructure especially in the field is unjustified and frittering away of scarce re­sources. The proponents state that such niceties as separate washroom facilities become simply irrelevant in combat situa­tions. Both men and women go up in a spacecraft and mixed gender company have made long passages in small boats and even rafts. Yes it is no doubt that going in convoys is a practical problem as there are no toilets. But is that not a basic necessity for all?

Infrastructure not only means additional bathrooms, as some would suggest but the complete gamut of inter related facili­ties like establishment of crèches, separate institutional safe guards for war orphans, family support plans etc. Moreover even in primitive societies women were relegated as camp followers and did not form part of the `hunting pack'. There are many other aspects like issues relating to one-soldier and two-soldier families, single parent hood, age related childbearing requirements of women etc.

Career Profile

The career profiles of women are nowhere comparable to those of the men in the frontline units. This denies them yet another instrument of authority: "Appointment in Command". Their queries and matters relating to welfare are often dealt with by male superiors (senior officers). These matters could be as trivial as accommodation, working conditions, and medical or as sensitive issues as matrimony; maternity or emotional upsets requiring counselling. Male superiors while simultaneously dealing with several issues of immediate importance often fail to empathise and seldom treat women's problems with desired understanding and patience. [26] 

Women unlike their male counterparts do not see a clear progression of opportunities in the Army. They cannot realistically see a track of career opportunities that potentially lead to the senior jobs in the Army. Instead of performing their assigned tasks they are often relegated to traditional female roles of secretarial duties. This reality understandably discourages many outstanding women who leave the Army for upwardly mobile civilian alternatives.

Sheltered Employment

This is the issue which agitates the minds of opponents to the induction of women, that women will in­variably fill those jobs in cities and locations preferred by and given to men returning from hard field areas, or are used to give sheltered employment to battle casualties. While this is a legitimate fear, proponents point out that the issue ought not to be pre-judged until after the feedback and analysis from the existing women entries are obtained.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment could mean different things to different people. The most common forms are sexual teasing, joking, snide remarks, gestures, touching, cornering and brushing-against physically. The least documented forms include actual or attempted rape and sexual assault. Other forms of sexual harassment include uninvited letters or obscene phone calls, repeated pressure for dates and display of sexually oriented posters or magazines. Each of these forms of harass­ment has the potential to create a threatening work environ­ment. The firing of the US Navy Secretary on account of a sex scandal at the Tail hock Convention in September 1991 indicates that serious sexual harassment does crop up often causing serious consequences.5 This is a wide spread problem in both military and civil life wherever women have been inducted. It may however be remembered that under n due to harsh and deprived living conditions. [27] 

Acceptance By Rank And File

Though most officers, lady and gentlemen, felt that the uniform was colour-blind, most also agreed that as yet it would be difficult for a regiment to be commanded by a woman. For, soldiers coming from varied backgrounds, especially rural, may not take orders from a woman, as in their social set up the male is the power holder and woman the obedient servant. The lord - servant relationship is part of our patriarchal system and it has affected the gender dialectics in the Services as well. Mahatma Gandhi rightly said in 1941 that, "men have not realised the truth in fullness in their behaviour towards woman. They have considered themselves to be lords and masters of women instead of considering them as their friends and co-workers".6 We can break free of the servant-lord dialectic and secure co-partnership for women in the Services only if they are completely inducted. While these sociological beliefs are patriarchal and would not change overnight, it is not denied that there are certain things that women cannot do in the Services. [28] 

The introduction of women into masculine environment tends to destroy male intangibles associated with the army. Men have traditionally sought to idealistically fight for peace, home and family. They want to protect women, not compete with them. The soldier's world has traditionally been a masculine haven. Women who enter his masculine world threaten his manhood. This attitude is especially evident within the ranks of Army's senior personnel. Many of these traditionally minded men have value system that can only envision women in protected roles. They see dependent women in traditional roles such as mothers, sisters, wife, daughter, nurse, teacher and secretary. Unfortunately for them, they experience significant cognitive dissonance when faced with women in non-traditional roles. In these situations senior male personnel respond sometimes by treating these women as daughters, who often welcome the preferential treatment, or as potential mistresses, or even worse, as second-class citizens. These men cannot accept women as military equals. The playing fields are not yet level for women in a male - dominated army. These masculine, sociological traditionalists too often quote the male pundits and soothsayers who predict the demise of combat readiness at the hands of female service aspirants. [29] 

Male-Female Ratio Imbalance

The fear that in due course of time one gender may begin to predominate in number in certain military operational specialities, is genuine. The US Army has suddenly found black outnumber whites and in certain Military occupational specialities women number more than males. Hence an acceptable ratio has to be arrived at, in each service or arms. In the Indian army, for many years to come males will dominate in combat units, but can the country agree to a female

predominant Combat support units? In other words, by implication, is the country willing to accept larger lethal female casualties in the combat support units during war even while they are stationed at far off base as a consequence of long-range weaponry attacks? In the Gulf War a scud missile did kill many women located far away from the combat zone. In order to stem the in-flow of women, the military would not be able to deny women entry, by raising standards for women only, or discriminate them by lowering perks and facilities for them only. Both methods will be against constitutional privileges.

Other aspects of Service life that bother women are, enforced separation from their families, traditional inflexibility of working hours, excessive regimentation of social life (particularly the evening functions at the messes which are more treated like parade with emphasis on dress, time, bar on children, scant regard to late nights etc), and lack of schooling facilities. This last all-too-common problem is a different cup of tea for servicewomen who, unlike men, cannot just send the spouse away with children to a place where schooling is available.



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:- [30] 

There is no shortage of men many are unemployed. Think about them before employing women. Industrial revolution has opened an many alternative careers for men where material benefits and climbing the corporate ladder as fast as possible have become the main surce of motivation. The Armed forces have gone down in the priority list as men's traditional career choice. Hence in the future there will be a need to fill these vacancies by motivated women.

Women are weak. The overall physical standards of the arrmy will go down if women are allowed in frontline units. However it has been found that strength and cardiovascular fitness measurement is something that must be determined on an individual basis. The imp criteria is that the indl must be able to perform the job. For example a study showed thst while carrying out the task of shifting weights physical strength alone is not required. [31] Also 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. [32] 

As troops are generally from rural areas and are orthodox there is likely to be an adverse psychological impact on our. This perception is fast changing with soldiers, which is evident in words of a soldier serving as a "sahayak" to a lady officer that he had decided to send his daughter into the army after he saw her getting so much respect from others. [33] Also women in combat support arms are facing no such problem.

extreme conditions of our deserts, cold, and high altitude areas where infantry is generally deployed could not be handled by women. 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 nearly six months. Also various examples of women Officers performing exceedingly well can be found in our service. [34] 

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. USAF Col Douglas Kennet at the Pentagon said that his service " could not go to war without women and we couldn't win without them"5. Back home women were deployed in "OP PRAKRAM" for nearly six months in field conditions. [35] 

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?

There is bound to be inevitable cases of pregnancy leave and unplanned periods of long absences, leading to decreasing of operational efficiency of infantry units. There is no data to suggest the same and the problem of unplanned leave is as relevant to males as to lady officers. [36] 

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 a prejudicial to them. Moreover we already have women in the Medical and the Dental Corps who are not always posted to peace locations.

Resettlement of short service incumbents will become a highly specialised task for which expertise is not available. Hence the period of engagement for women should be extendable to a period to entitle them for pension. After retirement, resettlement of women poses no major problem, as most would have opted to lead a quite life with their family unlike men who have to earn a livelihood for their family.

Women are emotionally weak and their induction will cause breaches in security. This is more apt for men, due to the already discussed male bonding, while threat from women will not be same due to their small numbers. [37] 

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.

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 OR cadre, wherein an organisation on the lines of the WAC (Women Auxiliary Corps) can be explored.

If similar numbers are inducted due to above reasonsin infantry 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. [38] 





47. What was distinctive about the Gulf War was for the first time there were so many women whose involvement across a wide range of specialities put them where the action was. There were about 35,000 women deployed in the Persian Gulf among the 540,000 male troops of the United States Army who where deployed there. They were maintaining vehicles, servic­ing fighter planes, carrying supplies and monitoring communi­cations. Thirteen women died in the war, five in combat ( two in helicopter crashes and three in a scud bomb attack in rear area barracks in Daharan). Two women were taken prisoner and so the argument that women already share the risk so, let them fight equally against the enemy Myths and Realities.

48. The above question is not a simple one to answer. The myths that were presumably demolished during the Gulf War most of which had been discussed in chapter IV of study:-

(a) Military women are protected from exposure to combat- five died out of combat related injuries.

(b) During mobilisation for war women could not be counted upon to deploy - women were deployed, in some cases even those with very young children.

(c) Women would not be able to perform under the pres­sure of

combat environment - they preformed well enough in jobs they were trained for.

(d) Men and women cannot work together in the combat theater without sex getting in the way - many did, though not all.

(e) Enemy soldiers would rather die than surrender to women. I raqi soldiers did surrender to women military police personnel. In the words of Staff Sergeant April Handley," They (Iraqi soldiers) could not surrender fast enough. They did not care whether I was a male or female as long as I was American.

(f) The public will not tolerate women being taken prisoner or coming home in `body bags'. They did toler­ate eleven dead bodies. It is no more tragic to lose a wife, mother, sister, or daughter than it is to lose a father, brother, husband or a son, and no less sog) The presence of women in combat would destroy `malebonding', General Holm quoted in her book the words of Cynthia Mosley, Commander of an army support company, "When the action starts every soldier does what they are trained to do. Nobody cares whether they are male or female Counter points. The study of the Gulf War experience would not be complete without the antagonistic views and experiences. [39] 

49. Certain issues which had been subdued due media hype has now come to light after the cooling period. These are as follows:-

During the Desert shield operations all three serv­ices of the

United States military fielded units with crucial jobs unfilled due to non-deployability of some women due to reasons of pregnancy, lack of child support due to single family etc. In a New week Poll 89% of the respondents said that they were troubled by the idea of mothers going to war.

Sexual Harassment. Many women soldiers reported nightmare times. there were sexual tensions that did not respond to bureaucratic mandates for professionalism in work place. In spite of Pentagon management of the news, there were many reports of illegal fraternisation, sexual harassment, rape and female prostitution that required courts martial. Elevated pregnancy rate were to a large extent due to illicit relationships. [40] 

Women Casualties. Overall the casualties werereportedly just about 12 percent and that too in a war that cannot be taken as a bench mark for drastic conclu­sion. If higher casualties had occurred under gory cir­cumstances, like it happened to United States service men in Somalia, the public reaction would have been definitely different. Even combat related casualties except one cannot be attributable to direct enemy action in the combat zone.

Women Prisoners. Despite earlier claims of the Pentagon it now turns out that both the women captured by the Iraqis were sexually violated during their cap­tivity. Is this something our society wants to see more of in the future

Male Bonding. Women were not present in the combat units to arrive at any conclusive argument that the protagonists of the issue are profound. [41] 

Women's Participation account for nearly eleven per­cent of the United States military they were only six percent of the overall force.

Non-Deployability. Statistics quoted, comparinsports related injuries of men to pregnancy rates of women are lopsided and misleading. If one takes a per­centage view with the overall numbers of the respective gender that participated, more women were non-deployable than men.

50. The argument has hence reached a moot point. One wouldbe unwise to reach any firm conclusions on the subject based on the Gulf War only. It was neither protracted nor bloody, or fought against an equal matched enemy. The fact is nobody knows for certain how women in a combat unit are going to perform, to determine public and military opinion about women s combat soldiers on the battle field.

51. The first batch of lady officers are on their way out of army after the extension of 5 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 Brian Mitchell's raising of immicality between the killing spirit and motherly love, the fact remains that " Had the US Army not expanded the opportunities for women, it is doubtful if the all volunteer force could have survived the 1970s", wrote Binking in his 1948 study. 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. Edwin W Besch feels that " Armed forces of most countries will continue to provide resources of disciplined, skilled young men and women who as a professional careerist have a definite place in the new military.

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. One tends to agree with Eitelberg who said, " 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."

The Army training instructors found female cadet officers very intelligent, very decisive, very confident, well spoken, adding other superlative adjectives. The Commandant found taking on lady officers a worthwhile experience though he felt that troops would only obey command from someone who would match them physically and after these officers had slowly blended into the landscape for better acceptance. However, under the Indian system of training, instant obedience is not weighed by a jawan in terms of physical equality but in terms of confidence the officer giving the orders in him and other jawans. The Army would have to be very careful that

myths and stereotypes do not continue to dominate about women officers in the regular forces, amongst troops and in units and training schools.



Air Chief Marshal N C Suri the former 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 off

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