Indian Armed Forces are proactive in integrating women but can do more to create a supportive work environment

In the 1970s the National Defense Academy (NDA) journal published a very interesting set of cartoons which were later considered hilarious with the title “If NDA Were Co-edited” without realizing that these cartoons would become. a reality in 2022. The Supreme Court of India recently ruled that women were allowed to apply immediately for the NDA entrance exam, demonstrating the urgency of breaking another’s glass ceiling. male stronghold.

Women have served in the armed forces as doctors since 1958 and as nurses since 1888. During World War II, 350 British Indian Army nurses died or disappeared in action, making a supreme sacrifice for the nation. Women officers were inducted into the Indian armed forces in non-medical fields in 1992, and the first group of women soldiers in the military police was inducted in 2021. Watching the freedom movement, Rani of the regiment Netaji’s Jhansi of the Indian National Army (INA) was an all-female combat unit, which was raised in 1943.

It is evident that historically women have played a stellar role in all spheres of nation-building, including the military. It can be interpreted that for decades after independence the government did not pay enough attention to expanding the role of women. Recent comments by the Chief Justice of India on the inadequate representation of women in the judiciary have also drawn attention to the need for equal participation of all genders in all spheres of nation-building.

“Place of work” in the armed forces

One question worth discussing is whether or not the armed forces are ready to deal with such transformational changes in the workplace with the integration of more women in diverse roles. A recent allegation of rape by a female Indian Air Force officer against her colleague has once again drawn attention to this extremely sensitive issue. The armed forces have appropriate SOPs, procedures and chain of command to deal with the grievances of any junior, regardless of gender. The hierarchy of the Air Force would surely examine the question of the complaint of the female officer which was not dealt with to its satisfaction within the organization; however, in a vibrant democracy like ours, every citizen has the right to explore other avenues of redress, which the officer uses when complaining to the police.

It would be prudent not to comment on the details of this case as the law will take its own course, which is extremely expeditious in the armed forces. Such incidents are an aberration in an otherwise well-disciplined force. Since such unfortunate incidents are the result of individual fault, it may not be fair to blame the entire department as long as they take swift action against the offender (s). .

Traditionally, the armed forces have had a reputation for being extremely courteous to women socially as well as in the workplace, even if they are not in uniform. After the integration of women officers, the military leadership showed the desire to integrate women into the existing security system through several initiatives despite professional constraints. The definition of “workplace” has a much broader connotation in the armed forces due to the nature of military engagements and the work environment. It is easier for a non-military organization or corporate sector to provide an enabling environment for women to work due to the static and predictable nature of the work compared to units of the armed forces where deployment could occur without notice, in isolated places, without adequate hygiene / sanitation facilities, 24 hours a day and in the company of all male soldiers.

It should be remembered that the personnel of the armed forces are drawn from the existing Indian society which is diverse. Although the military as an organization is extremely sensitive, there is nonetheless a need to continuously address gender issues and educate all ranks on what is expected of them in a rapidly changing environment. . It has been observed that over the years there is a noticeable change in the attitude of male and male officers towards female officers which is a step in the right direction.

How to ensure an enabling environment

To envision the way forward, it is first necessary to accept that the integration of women into the traditionally male-dominated armed forces requires continued attention and demands immense efforts. Second, there are adequate provisions in criminal and military law to deal severely with incidents of sexual harassment, so there is no need for new laws in this regard. In addition, the armed forces are equipped to dispense justice faster than the country’s judicial system. Third, the goal is prevention rather than redress, which organizations cannot have an “all is well” attitude. There must be an ongoing dialogue to make the environment in the armed forces work-friendly for both genders.

All ranks need to put in the energy to make this change a success and be proud of it. Fourth, SOPs and procedures must be continually updated so that they facilitate proper functioning for both genders. Fifth, established policies and SOPs must be strictly enforced and violators must be punished, sending the right message to the environment.

The armed forces have been proactive in inducting women into maximum flow, including as fighter pilots, although they have been a male stronghold for ages. The Indian armed forces have an ethic and traditions that make them the most disciplined force and highly respected by the citizens of this country. The armed forces have the versatility to adapt to change much faster than any other organization. Exemplary conduct at all levels, especially with regard to women, is an absolute necessity in order to meet the expectations of the nation.

The author was the head of the Army Service Corps. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the United Service Institution of India and a Motivational and Leadership Lecturer. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.

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