WEAPONRY AND WOMEN: RESERVOIR OF NEW ENERGY

A glass ceiling was completely closed on Thursday when Defence Ministry of India sanctioned a formal letter granting permanent commission to women officers in the eight more branches of the Indian army. Following the Supreme Court, the endless struggle to break the gender discrimination and provide equality for women in the Army had to be battled right up to the peak level. The sanction letter of the Indian government specifies that women’s short-service Commission (SSC) will be granted in all the 10 streams in which they serve presently as the cause for occasional celebration.

“In the anticipation, the Army HQ had already set in motion a series of preparatory actions for conduct the permanent commission selection board for eligible women officers. The board will be scheduled as soon as all eligible women SSC officers exercise their options and requisite their documentation,” said an Army personnel on Thursday.

Women were introduced in the Indian Army only in short service commission since 1992. In 2008, women were first inducted as permanent commissioned officers in Legal and Education branches only. In 2020, 8 more crops are added as permanent commissioned officers is undoubtedly a good sign to break all prejudices associated with the Armed forces. Till now the percentage of women in the Indian Army was 3.89%, air force 13.28%, and navy 6.7% only. The irony is that only 1,653 women are serving in the Indian army of the 40,825 total officers.

Some intangible reasons like motherhood, physiological limitations, and troops from rural backgrounds not accepting women in a command role were quoted by our government but in February, it was discarded by Supreme Court at the time of giving permanent status to women in the Army.

The time has come for a realization that women officers in the Army are not adjuncts to a male-dominated establishment whose presence must be tolerated within narrow confines.”-Supreme Court.

This is not the first time in India that a woman has been seen as a warrior. History bears the witness to the battlefield story of Lakshmi Bai, the Queen of Jhansi. She is always remembered for her leadership in the war of independence against the British troops.

In 1943, amidst world war2, the Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose also created the Rani Jhansi Regiment, all women crops of soldiers.

However, patriarchal society cannot accept this mutiny so lightly. In other parts of the world, in countries such as Israel and the United State, women were exempted to be active on the battlefield. And here our government is being pushed to make women’s role a bit more active in the Indian Army.

It can be assumed that for this sex stereotype and gender discrimination feminism was derived in India. Indian feminists have fought against some cultural issues within India’s misogynist society. The sorrowful thing is where women are revered as a goddess, their women have to fight for their existence even after so many years of independence. Such a healthy society can never be built with misogyny. So it is needless to say that the decision that the Supreme Court made will uproot these prejudices even a little bit. Our government also needs to think more deeply about equality.

Though the picture has changed a lot and gender barrier may have loosened eventually but the constant struggle against inequity is too far from the finishing line.

-Saswati Chattopadhyay.

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