The Central government has told the apex court that women may not be suitable for command posts in the Army citing the reason that male troops are not prepared to accept women officers.

Women Officers’ demands

A number of women officers demanded command posting after getting a permanent commission. Their plea, however, has been opposed citing greater family demands and the danger of them being taken in as prisoners of war.

Reasons for opposing the plea

“The composition of rank & file being male, and predominantly drawn from rural background, with prevailing societal norms, the troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command”, it said.
It also mentioned that is difficult to treat male and female officers on a par in the matter of postings. This is due to their different physical standards and exposures. Besides that, they also have their reservations overexposing women officers to combat situations.
Induction of women to such posts would change the dynamics of the armed forces, Senior advocate R Balasubramanian and lawyer Neela Gokhale told a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi.  For instance, the “challenges of confinement, motherhood and childcare” are also an impediment to the same.

Reasons offered against female commanders

  1. Male troops won’t accept female commanders
  2. Family demands women have to cater to – pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, etc.
  3. Reservations overexposing women officers to combat situations
  4. Different physical standards
Meenakshi Lekhi and Aishwarya Bhatti, who were representing the women officers, opposed their plea and said that many of them displayed exceptional valour and courage in adverse situations.
The centre, on the other hand, was adamant that armed forces require a lot of sacrifices and commitment. Also, phases like pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards children and families affect their job.
“The officers are expected to lead their men from the front and need to be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks. Inherent physiological differences between men and women preclude equal physical performance resulting in lower physical standards and hence the physical capacity of women officers remains a challenge for command of units,” the government said.

Tushar Mehta’s reply

In response to the Centre’s note to the apex court on Tuesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that no gender discrimination should be read into it. “Why do women try to be equal to men when they are, and can be far ahead?” he added.

Reasons offered in favour of female commanders

  1. Some women show exceptional bravery
  2. Women are equal to men, even far ahead
  3. Equal opportunities should be given to all
The bench also hinted that it was incorrect to bar women from holding command posts. Instead, the army should allow them keeping in mind the organisational requirement and suitability. “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,” the bench said.
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