Between the coronavirus epidemic and Trump’s visit to India, a story of triumph for a long fight over equality got overshadowed. The Apex Court of India made a momentous decision by dismissing the stance that male soldiers were not ready to welcome orders from female officers and extended permeant service which until now was exclusive to male soldiers only. This is a big step towards gender equality in the Indian army.
As of now, women are being inducted in the Indian Army for a short-service commission that hires them for a short span of 14 years. They are only allowed permanent jobs in the Army’s medical, legal and educational divisions. However, since coming April due to the Supreme court’s order women would be welcomed in 15 branches of the army on a permanent basis.
The court, however, did not rule on deploying women in combat roles, saying a competent authority is needed to decide. Appropriately, the two other wings of the Indian armed forces i.e. the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy do permit women in combat roles and combat supervisory roles.
“To cast aspersion on their abilities on the ground of gender is an insult not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian army,” Judges said in their ruling.
With this, the Supreme court has shut any argument on women being indefensible due to their physiological differences of women being supposedly more suited to parenting and caregiving responsibilities. The Supreme courts step is a stepping stone towards bridging perception gap between a women’s capability in governance and can be seen as a far-reaching reform in the policy.
India, with the second-largest army in the world, has struggled including women in combat roles, citing apprehensions over women’s helplessness if captured and over their physical and mental ability to cope with frontline deployments.
India’s air force and navy offer permanent positions to women as well as select combat roles. Most countries employ women in several roles in their armed forces but only a handful, including Australia, Germany, Israel and the United States, allow them to take on roles in the combat sector.
Women have proved themselves in all fields yet find their contributions get discredited or disregarded. For example, the architect of Delhi’s education reforms, Atishi Marlena, did not find a place in the newly-formed Delhi Cabinet even though many see her policies that brought her government to power and with such a thumping majority.
As for parliament, the women’s reservation bill, asking for a reservation of 33 per cent of the seats for members of the sex, is yet to be passed. As time passes and more and more women are integrated into the force, perceptions might change. When the same men go back to their villages, they might just begin to look at women not only as their wife, mother or sister but also their equal and with a lot more respect.
Feminism does not find its origins in bashing men but is a call for equality. Equality of rights in all aspects of life and if the world needs balance it needs equality.
OpEd By Alisha Upadhyay. Views Personel