Women In Indian Defense Forces—Should they be inducted or not?

Introduction: Women are the very fabric of our society interwoven in each aspect of human life. They play as mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and colleagues. Traditionally, since ages, women are considered to be adapt in handling the household chores while the men folk lead the outside engagements including managing the finances for running the family. However, with times, as everything is changing, so is this concept that women would limit them to inside the fore walls of their family and house.  During the freedom struggle, we have learnt about many leaders and fighters who came in the front to guide their male counterparts and help in outsmarting the British rulers. Women also played a key background supportive role in changing the perception of the then men dominant society that they can be a predominant force if allowed to work on equal terms with men. Thus, over a period of decades, women rights have evolved significantly and they enjoy considerable freedom. Women today are empowered enough to handle many challenging assignments across different sections affecting our life.

Should women be working in defending the country?

While we have excellent example of a woman leading the country for over a decade and that India had a women President, a debate has raged in the country that women are not fit for defending the country. I favor the inclusion of women in all fields of defence forces.

Status of women in Armed Forces in other countries: A cursory glance on the status of women recruitment in many countries like USA, UK, Israel, Russia, Australia, Germany etc. reflects that women are present in good numbers in the armies of these nations. However, only a handful of nations they are not assigned duties at the war front like US allow them for more active war duties; otherwise they are adsorbed in nursing and other logistic support services only. For Canadian women it has been a long and slow struggle to be part of the armed forces. For over a hundred years, women were considered suitable only for nursing duties.

Challenges that women are expected to face while working on a shoulder to shoulder basis in the field duties in armed forces:

  1. Endurance: The field duties in armed services require extensive physical strength, walking for long distances carrying weight and standing on guard posts. Besides, there may not be adequate opportunities all the times for proper refreshments and addressing nature’s calls. Physically, women are considered to be less enduring and thus all women may not be able to handle the stress and complications of the field jobs.
  2. Sexual Harassment: Women’s dignity at risk, while handling field jobs. As majority of the colleagues and the people in the vicinity are men, many a times it becomes difficult for women to defend themselves from the sexual abuse. Complaints made later on does not result in much relief as the modesty outraged once cannot be restored and the women may be subjected to further abuse.
  3. Low Acceptance by their male peers: Women are considered to be the object of sexual fantasy by most of the men. Besides, men find it hard to get the confidence in handing over many responsibilities to women.
  4. Poor Comfort Level: Normally, the men discuss many personal and family issues among themselves during the off hours or even on duty. But with women around, they find it difficult to share many personal issues. Thus, women are considered as intruders into men’s privacy.

The Indian Context:

Women in Indian defence services constitute about 4-5% of the total officers strength. At the lower ranks, the percentage is higher as the medical services have a significant number as nurses and doctors in Army, Navy and Air force.

We have women in the supporting roles like Engineering Corps; Education Corps; Medical Corps; Service Corps etc. These days, women have also been inducted into Air Force and Naval forces for the war front duties. However, Infantry services are still eluding the Indian women. The debate to include women in more wings of defence services continues though majority of men counterparts have accepted them happily.

Conclusion: Women have been handling households adeptly since time immemorial and have been found to better managers. In the outside world too, women have outwitted their male counterparts in most of the fields. Thus, there is no reason that a debate on “whether women should be inducted in defence” is carried forward. Instead, we should focus our efforts on providing supportive environment to the women. It is said that “behind every successful man, there is a woman”.  In the Indian defence sector context, women are present all over—supporting their husbands for doing the duty for the nation and in action from front in multiple roles. We shall see the strength of women going above 10% in Indian defence sector by 2020.

Kanav Kansal

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