First Lieutenant Shaye Haver and Captain Kristen Griest of the US Army
may not have broken the military’s brass ceiling, but they have
definitely cracked it. Last Friday, they were awarded the prestigious
Ranger tab to pin on their uniforms after becoming the first women to
pass the 62-day Ranger training course, considered the most intense and
demanding in the US military. About 4,000 soldiers attempt the Ranger
course every year, and around 40 per cent qualify.
male counterparts who were required to get buzz cuts for the training,
the two women also had to have close-cropped hair. But they still cannot
join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, the US Army’s Special Operations
force, which remains closed to women.
These two women officers
attended the Ranger course as part of the US Army’s ongoing assessment
of how to better integrate women in the force. The then US Defence
Secretary, Leon Panetta, had announced in 2013 that the military would
open up combat roles to women by 2016 unless the services could provide
data and evidence to keep certain positions closed to women. The US Navy
has already announced that it will not ask for any exemptions for women
joining the Seals, the Navy’s elite special operations force.
the debate on women in the US military is moving in the right
direction. If the US does allow women into combat units — which looks
likely — it would join more than 15 other countries, including Canada,
France, Germany and Israel, that have removed the ‘brass ceiling’.
What is the situation in India?
images of an all-women military contingent marching down Rajpath this
Republic Day were impressive, but did not present the full picture.
While women have served in the military nursing service since 1927 and
as medical officers since 1943, they were allowed to join in other
non-combat roles only in 1992. These women can join the Indian armed
forces only as officers, and that too in certain specific roles, and
largely as short-service officers (a stint of ten years, extendable to
The government has recently granted permanent commission to
women serving in the Army’s legal and education corps, their
corresponding branches in the Navy and Air Force, the accounts branch of
the Air Force and as air traffic controllers in the Navy. But
discrimination persists. The case for the grant of permanent commission
to women officers in the Army — at par with male officers selected and
trained with these women officers — is being heard in the Supreme Court.
Colonel Mitali Madhumita, India’s first woman Army officer to win a
Sena Medal (gallantry) for saving at least 19 lives during the February
2010 terrorist attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, has approached the
judiciary because she is not being allowed to change her choice to
permanent commission in education corps like her male counterparts.
any case, the proposal to have women in combat roles was ruled out by
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in May. Parrikar’s reason was the same
as that proffered by the Service Chiefs to the Parliamentary Committee
on Women’s Empowerment: that in the case of women being captured by the
enemy, the troops would be demoralised. If there was ever a patriarchal
argument, then this is the one. How worse could the case of a captured
woman soldier be than the brutal torture, chopping of limbs, and murder
of Captain Saurabh Kalia and his patrol captured by Pakistani soldiers
in Kargil ?
Even if this is a problem, the way forward is to
sensitise the larger public, and particularly the military, to accept
women in combat roles by shifting the focus away from their gender. The
example of the Canadian armed forces is instructive in this regard. In
May 2006, Captain Nichola Goddard became the first woman in Canadian
history to be killed while serving on the frontline in a direct combat
role against the Taliban. Canada’s response did not focus on the issue
of gender but rather that it had lost a competent and dedicated soldier.
than the larger public, any decision to make the defence forces
gender-neutral will be controversial within the Indian military. Senior
military officers argue that having women in combat roles will damage
the cohesion of fighting units, disrupting its esprit de corps and have a
detrimental effect on factors such as morale, health and welfare. They
also say that women lack the physical strength to be effective in ground
close combat. Our prevalent social norms and the background of our
troops further complicate the situation, they argue.
genuine concerns but experience shows that the most important aspect of
successful integration lies with strong leadership, whereby women are
treated as equals with the men in their unit. Moreover, in today’
asymmetric wars, where there are no defined frontlines, while
exclusionary policies may keep women out of the combat arms, they cannot
be kept out of combat itself.
In no country has the military
hierarchy easily changed its views on altering the status quo, which has
been traditionally and exclusively male. Even in Canada and Israel, the
removal of combat exclusion for women was a result of political and
legal pressures imposed on the military. These militaries had to then
make large adjustments. It may well go the same way in India.
it all boils down to this: if a soldier — irrespective of gender — can
meet the standards the military has established for a particular job, he
or she should be able to serve there. As research shows, it is
leadership which is a major factor in how well military units perform —
not the presence or absence of women.SOURCES LINK