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Friday, June 30, 2006

‘Women Soldiers’ – An Oxymoron in India?

“Would you have let me join the armed forces had I not had this slightly bad eyesight problem?”

I asked my father this question just after I watched “We the People’ on NDTV. The topic for discussion being ‘Is India’s military biased against women?’

The answer I got was a straight and blunt “Yes”
But if I know my father well, there was an underlying and very prominent tacit message – ‘I wouldn’t have let you give a 2nd thought to your decision.’
That is to say, “Do your homework first, as in self-introspection. If you promise to handle everything that is demanded from a woman soldier, go ahead. But don’t dare to insult the profession even in your dreams by regretting at any stage for having taken it up. Then you would be insulting your self, me, and your country.”

I had done my homework long back and that is why am not in the armed forces. Even though I have the mental stamina, I badly lack the physical strength required for being a part of the defense forces.

The debate has been ignited due to Army Vice Chief Lt. Gen. S. Pattabhiraman’s sexist remark – ‘Comfort level with women officers is low and the army can do without them’; followed by a suicide incident involving a woman officer.

The response included newspapers giving front page coverage to the issue, accompanying them with names in bold like – Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Joan of Arc, Razia Sultana, Rani Jhansi regiment of the INA, etc. all to prove that women have the metal in them to be a part of the military even in a combat role.

Following this was the emphasis on defining ‘COMBAT’ per se – you might be employed in any function in the military, there might not be access to basic facilities, you might have to share tents/blankets etc. with your counterparts (which include males), you might be captured by the enemy and in case of women, even sexually harassed, etc.

Thinking twice about such situations is what I meant by ‘Do your Homework’. The left side of my brain tells me that yes there are hurdles which in extreme cases might make a woman soldier look back at her decision. But then the right side adds, that is precisely why you need to promise yourself that you can face them. Only then you should go ahead and join the military. Don’t break the commitment.

The news channels have been flashing with debates, saying ‘The problem is with men and their mindset; which makes it difficult for them to accept a woman officer among their ranks.’

Another one said, ‘Women have grown, men need to grow up.’


But would add to that by saying, In the military,

‘If she can survive it all, Let her.
If she can’t and backtracks, Punish her’

Do your Homework girls, before falling for high-blown statements like ‘Breaking the glass ceiling’ and please don’t insult any profession.

Decide what you are made for!



  • Another one said, ‘Women have grown, men need to grow up.’


    Bah!!!! That is plain sexist!

    Of course, the typical male officer has a low comfort level with his female counterpart. You know why? Because the typical Indian female has a low comfort level with the Indian male. Remember those ladies only seats in the buses? Remember that ladies only line? The Indian female will readily mix with a strange female but imagine her talking to a male stranger. OMG!!

    And grown up? Now, come on! Your average extra grown up female fights tooth and nail for gender equality and then asks me to vacate that ladies only seat in the bus. Yea...that's pretty grown up. Wake me when you have gents only seats in the buses.

    The problem lies just as much with the typical female mindset as much it does with the male. The real oxymoron is in fact - "the unprejudiced Indian". And thats what needs curing, and it needs curing fast!

    By Blogger Anshul, At 10:05 AM, July 06, 2006  

  • 1st - D post was in no way meant 2 favour a particular talks simply of 'Commitment'

    2nd - wen u talk of comfort level.........puhleeeez dont compare d qs of defense forces wid seats in buses n lines in front of some tkt counter.......gimme a brk !!!
    d 2 situations r poles d defense forces a women officer has a tuff time doin her duty d way she wishes......whereas her mal counterparts have full leeway.....u want a real life example - Read abt Kiran Bedi !

    So, ders no grnd of comparison wid buses n queues.Period

    3rd- I agree d prob lies wid both men n women....n both need curin but b4 dat wat needs immediate attention is d Rigid Hierarchical Mindset of d armed forces demsleves!

    By Blogger Anuja, At 12:13 PM, July 06, 2006  

  • eeeks.. I wasnt comparing defense forces with seats in buses. Gaaaa! My point was that this country itself has an inherent "low comfort level problem" and you cant cure armed forces of it unless you cure the society.

    I have read enough about Kiran Bedi. All I am saying is that you are looking at the wrong end of the problem. The reason why females are not treated as equals in the military and the police are pretty much the same as else where. It is because the society inherently teaches us to do so since a very early age. It is acceptable to give females unneccessary differential treatment sometimes in their favour (lines, seats) and sometimes not (girls hostels/schools have more restrictions then boys). We desperately need a social reform where these seemingly minor things are cured, where the society considers it a priority to ensure that at the social level no differential treatment is meted out.

    My conjecture is that you cant cure the military unless you cure the society. Cant clean the fish if the pond is dirty.

    So yea, that ladies only seat is a part of the problem that finally blows up to show its ugly head in the armed forces.

    Oh and what commitment? Are you suggesting that females are more commited to their jobs than males or what?

    By Blogger Anshul, At 11:53 PM, July 11, 2006  

  • I completely agree wid ur conjecture - "you cant cure the military unless you cure the society".

    BUT.....a few corrections .....

    ~ It's not just 'this country' dat has d 'low comfort level' problem.....d prob exists everywhere....dats why d phrase 'breaking d glass ceiling' exists.......

    N dis is precisly why i agree wid d statement dat 'male mindset needs an overhaul'.... BUT ......not alone.....rather as a part of d bigger change in d SOCIAL MINDSET.

    ~ Society doesnt TEACH u to give differential treatment 2 women....... nobody can teach u dat!
    Unfortunately, it's been a way of life n dat is y i agree wid ur conjecture.

    ~ Don't dissect my statements.......m not suggestin nethin......m simply expressing wat i feel.......
    I have never even remotely said dat females r more committed coz i myself dont believe in such sexist statements.........
    D pt of commitment comes 2 picture only wen i talk of women doin deir homework well b4 deciding 2 join d armed forces......... coz dis is one of those professions where committment is more important dan even ur life. Simple!

    P.S. That last question of urs regarding females n commitment smells openly of dat 'typical male ego' dat can't agree 2 women being better in ne way ne walk of life.

    By Blogger Anuja, At 11:06 AM, July 12, 2006  

  • Particular women can and are better than their male counterparts at particular jobs. I am all rotten tomatoes only when someone makes unsubstantiated claims about women-as-a-whole being better than men at something or the other way around.

    Does that count as the typical male ego? :P

    By Blogger Anshul, At 11:52 AM, July 13, 2006  

  • Where in d whole write-up did u find a single statement which even remotely hinted at "women-as-a-whole being better than men at something or the other way around" ?????

    Neways i dont have ne prob wid d 'typical male ego' as long as it doesnt come in my way. :P

    By Blogger Anuja, At 12:03 PM, July 13, 2006  

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