SC ruling to stop gender bias in armed forces

SC ruling to stop gender bias in armed forces

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the Delhi High Court's ruling that women officers in the Army can be given permanent commissions and gave the...

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the Delhi High Court's ruling that women officers in the Army can be given permanent commissions and gave the Centre three months' time to implement the ruling.

Upholding the 2010 judgment, Justice D Y Chandrachud said the Centre's submissions that women are physiologically weak were based on a deeply-entrenched stereotype that men are dominant, and women are caretakers, and that taking care of the family is a woman's job. The apex court suggested a 'change of mindset' on part of the government to put an end to gender bias in armed forces.

Terming the submissions "deeply disturbing," the Supreme Court said that the absolute bar on granting command posts to women officers in the Army is irrational and against the Right to Equality. The court noted that the petitioners had countered the government by arguing on the physical capabilities of women, the composition of the rank and file and psychological realities.

These "need to be rejected with the contempt that they deserve," the judges said. At present, woman officers can serve for 10-14 years in the Short Service Commission. Women officers are allowed entry into Army Service Corps, Ordnance, Education Corps, Judge Advocate General, Engineers, Signals, Intelligence and Electrical and Mechanical Engineering branches.

The Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy also grant permanent commission to women officers even as both have opened up some combat roles for women. The air force allows women as officers in flying and ground duties. Women IAF Short Service Commission (SSC) officers fly helicopter, transport aircraft and now even fighter jets. In the navy, women officers inducted through SSC are allowed in logistics, law, observers, air traffic control, maritime reconnaissance pilots and Naval Armament Inspectorate Cadre.

It is not that women officers have altogether not been given permanent commissions so far. Women officers have been inducted into the Army from 1993. Initially, they were brought in for five years of service under "Special Entry Scheme", which was then converted into Short Service Commission (SSC).

In 2008, permanent commission was extended to women in streams of Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Army Education Corps. Last year, in a landmark move, the Narendra Modi government decided to grant permanent commission to women in all ten branches where they are inducted for Short Service Commission. So why is there a clamour over the issue? It is all about the command posts.

Do the troops drawn from different backgrounds and upbringing practices accept a women commander? Are women able to face the resistance from within the family and accept command positions in frontline positions? The government's dilemma over it stems from the patriarchal norms and discourses of our society.

A beginning has to be made somewhere by someone. This is the time. Let women, who are far more matured than any man, take her rightful place. Instead of paying just lip service to our 'shakti swaroopinis' let us empower them to don the command roles. It is time, hence, not just the government, but the entire Indian 'Samaj' changed its mindset!

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