Women In Combative Forces????
As we celebrate 62 years of our independence, we look at our most profound symbol of national pride- the Indian soldier. In a time of dwindling virtues, it is in them that Indians have rested great hope and exceptional pride. Almost a decade after the Indian armed forces began inducting women officers into active service, more and more young women are opting to join the defence forces. They have trained alongside men, made good officers and carved a place for themselves in what was probably the last male bastion.
The debate however continues about “Should women serve as even greater role by joining men in ground combat unit? Are women strong enough mentally and physically? Will they kill when they have to? Can men and women work together at the grueling pace of combat operations?
And the answer has t be an unequivocal YES because where & how women serve in the military should be based on ability & training, not gender.
Dating back to pre-independence time, the outstanding nationalist leader had the innate wisdom to recognize the indispensability of women in the attainment of Indian independence & therefore invited women’s participation in his Indian national army.
And in today’s all volunteer force, women have accepted the challenges, responsibilities & dangers of military service, just as the men have.
But policies especially in India, limit where women serve in the army, specifically closed are infantry, armor and most artillery units and women can’t be assigned to units whose primary mission is of engage the enemy. These policies are based on what is believed to be the will of the public, not women’s proven abilities.
In fact discrimination starts at the very beginning. Women are recruited only on short service commission of 10-14 years and cannot rise above the rank of major. Even at the training, the treatment meted out to men and women are conspicuously different, with women getting “softer treatment”, special concessions are made and standards are lowered for women. As a result of difference in assignments and attitudes continue throughout the service.
It is worth pointed out in this regard that women are only trained for 24 weeks while gentlemen cadets for 44 weeks even though they cover the same syllabus.
The concessions coupled with mostly patronizing and derisive attitudes result in plethora of integration issues cropping up. Thus there is no justification for women being denied the opportunity to serve in armed forces. What is required is that women cadets should be put through equal mental and physical rigors so that they can pass out equals. Why handicap our military with outdated and unrealistic policies restricting the use of capable people? It’s time that such policies are abolished.
Certain fears as sexual integration would lead to relationships that would cause jealously among men competing for female soldier’s attention, weakening close bond and team work needed in front line units.
It’s only been 14-15 years since women were inducted into armed forces, it will take time for men and women cadets to get used to each other. There are few teething troubles. Suddenly one or two incident like suicide by Sushmita chakraborty is highlighted as an example to show that women should not be allowed in combative forces. After all women constitute the backbone of armed forces medical services and the military nursing service and have been serving as doctors in military for quite a long time and there have never been any problems.
People argue that women might not hold up psychologically under the rigors of war or may say that women may be capable but are highly vulnerable in the army.
But a pentagon study has shown that women soldiers cope as well as their male colleagues. They found no evidence that female soldiers are less able than male soldiers to cope with stressors and challenges serving in combat. When discussing the role of women soldier in combat, the focus needs to move away from one of weakness and vulnerability to one of strength and accomplishment.
Another often cited reason for continuing to exclude women from combat is their physical strength compared to men. Women have made great strides in physical fitness and the new technology including lighter weapons and exo-skeletons; will change the nature of combat forces.
Is it fair that all the women should be barred from armed forces just because of incapability of some women?
“Women aren’t big and strong enough for combat forces”. I’ll buy this when someone explains why the Marine Corps will cheerfully accept a 4 feet 10 inches male recruit who weighs 96 pounds. Sure the marines will make a man out of him, but even if they water the guy with miracle grow, they won’t be able to turn him into six footer. The average man may be stronger and bigger than the average women; plenty of women are bigger and stronger than many men.
Why discriminate based on gender, when you could have straight forward task specific strength requirements?
Locking women out of combat may help a few men maintain the illusion of gallantry, but it’s time to acknowledge reality. Women will die alongside men in any terrorist attack and women like men are affected by our national defense policies. It’s time to give them the right to fight for their country.
It doesn’t matter whether you are man or a woman, there is one standard that we all meet, bond and drive to go on with the mission.