Despite being eligible for the permanent commission now, women officers in the Army still have no chance of getting a command posting. However, when the Supreme Court of India demanded an answer from the Government regarding this matter, it simply responded by saying that male troops may not be ready for women commanders. But must the onus of failure to accept women as commanders be shoved on troops entirely? What is being done to normalise the presence of women commanders by the Indian Army and the Government of India? Must women wait for societal norms to dilute on their own from the minds of male troops? Must their potential go unutilised because it is easier to allege a lack of “mental schooling” than drill a sense of duty to obey an officer irrespective of gender in our jawans?
- The Centre has said to the SC that women aren’t fit for commanding positions in the Army, as male troops aren’t mentally schooled to accept them.
- Should the onus of failure to accept women commanders be shoved on troops entirely?
- What is being done to normalise the presence of women commanders by the Indian Army and the Government of India?
- How are Centre and Army heads planning to normalise their presence for male troops?
“The composition of rank and file being male, and predominantly drawn from rural background, with prevailing society norms, the troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command,” read the Centre’s response, in a report by TOI. The Centre further backed this argument which reasons, such as, greater family demands, the perils of women being taken as prisoners of war and reservations about over-exposing women officers to combat situations.
What is being done to normalise the presence of women commanders by the Indian Army and the government of India? Must women wait for societal norms to dilute on their own from the minds of male troops?
Perhaps the government is not making a biased comment but merely stating the obvious facts. It isn’t hard to believe that in a deeply patriarchal society as ours, it doesn’t come naturally to men, to “obey” orders issued by women. Even within the forces, male entitlement and sense of superiority override virtues like patriotism, discipline and obedience.
Thus, if women still aren’t deemed fit to command male troops the society is responsible on some level. We are raising our daughters to lead, but we are still far from raising sons who can follow them. It isn’t just the Army, where women leaders struggle with stereotypical gender dynamics that threaten to undermine their authority. A 2015 study whose results were published in Science Daily found that men may feel threatened by female supervisors and act more assertively toward them than male bosses, which could disrupt the workplace with struggles over power dynamics.
Encouraging more women to join the Indian Army is just one aspect of achieving equality, conditioning men to accept them as equals is another, and the Centre needs to take this challenge head-on.
Having said that, the Government cannot simply deny women commanding positions by the alleging inability of male troops to accept them in leadership roles. The future of a lot of women officers is in question here and they deserve to know what steps are being taken to correct this stigma? How are the Centre and the Army head planning to normalise the presence of women commanders? What strategies are being put into place to ensure that men keep their conservative upbringing and biases outside of the Armed Forces from the day they wear the uniform?
It is an honour to be able to serve your country. No job is held in as much esteem as one in the Armed Forces. Which is why it hurts to see that gender bias gets to call the shots even in such a prestigious institution and not merit and capabilities. Encouraging more women to join the Indian Army is just one aspect of achieving equality, conditioning men to accept them as equals is another, and the Centre needs to take this challenge head-on.
The Supreme Court said in its response to the Centre, “A change of mindset is required with changing times. You need to give them opportunity and they will serve to the best of their capabilities,” which hits the mark. Give women a chance to prove their mettle. Besides, how will men come to accept women in commanding positions, if they are not even exposed to the idea in the first place?
Picture By: IndiaTV
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.