In an interview to News 18, the Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, has said that women are not ready for combat roles. According to him, women have the responsibility of raising kids, a female officer would feel uncomfortable at the frontline and may also accuse jawans of peeping while she changes clothes. He further explained his stance, saying that while he was ready to introduce women to combat roles, the Army may not be. This he explained is because most jawans come from villages and they may not accept a woman officer leading them. Also, a female commanding officer won’t be able to be away from her duty for six months. Denying maternity leave in such situations may also lead to a lot of “ruckus.”
- Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, has said that he is ready to introduce women to combat roles, but the Army isn’t.
- According to him, most jawans come from villages and they may not accept a woman officer leading them.
- It is not the army, or Rawat, but Indian society’s misogyny which is keeping women from getting into combat roles.
So, does Rawat think that women won’t make into good commanding officers? No. He thinks that in the context of our culture, it isn’t a good idea, yet. If you read closely, Rawat is pointing out at our society’s incapability to free women of the patriarchal shackles. He hasn’t called female soldiers weak or incompetent, he is merely pointing out at the fault lines in our culture, which treats men and women differently. It is easy for us to dissect all the problems he has stated on paper, but he has to face all this in reality. It is not the army, or Rawat, but our own misogyny (or inability to get rid of it) which is keeping women from getting into combat roles.
Even today a woman must be wary of her surroundings when changing clothes. She is still expected to sacrifice everything to rear children.
It is not hard to believe, when Rawat says that jawans would have issues with taking orders from a female commanding officer. As for the matter of changing clothes and privacy of female cadets, we would have appreciated had he put the focus less on female paranoia (not unjustified, considering the state of women’s safety in our country.) and more on sexual aggression among men.
Whether a female cadet is surrounded by a hundred male cadets or a thousand, she shouldn’t have to constantly look over her shoulder. The onus of treating her with respect falls on her male peers, as it does in every profession. The problem here is not female prudishness.
When it comes to issues like maternity, one has to accept that the army cannot afford any flexibility for female cadets, especially in circumstances like war. Hence, it becomes the duty of society to provide ample support to women combat officers. Women are in combat roles in so many countries across the globe. It is not as if these women and their families don’t deal with maternity. It is that the Indian society can’t let go of its outdated stigmas.
Male partners with their wives serving in the armed forces, worldwide, actively fulfil the responsibility of raising children, but for some reason this is unacceptable to Indians.
Despite being deserving and talented many women don’t get to do what they are best at. Our society would rather have them tend to toddlers and never leave the house. For any officer, it is a matter of pride to serve her nation. If a family can take care of itself, when the male member as serves on combat duty, why should it be any different for families of female combat officers?
If our society commits to ending this culture of misogyny and male entitlement, both women and the army would benefit from it. However, the change we seek won’t be as easy and instantaneous as snapping one’s fingers. But “men will be men” is not an acceptable excuse to keep women from active duty.
Picture Credit: India Times
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.