Recently, a special selection board cleared as many as 108 women officers in the Army for the rank of colonel (selection grade). This, in turn, had introduced them to the role of command units and troops in their respective arms and services for the first time.
Of the three services, the army marks women officers at 1,705, followed by 1,640 women officers in the IAF, and 559 in the Navy, as per the data submitted by the government to Parliament last year.
In February 2020, the Supreme Court (SC) opened the doors for promotion to women officers across all streams by granting permanent commissions to women Army officers of the Army, except for pure combat arms.
In an exclusive interview with BW Healthcare World, Major General Dr Rashmi Datta expounded on women's participation in the armed forces. Edited excerpts:
Why is there a dearth of women's participation in commanding roles in the armed forces?
The armed forces are a representation of society, so the general public does have problems when it comes to taking orders from a female leader or female colleague. So, in the army too, people from certain areas because of their sociological background will have certain problems. However, the only way to combat it is through your professional behaviour.
Because professional capability is something that people will come to understand over time, they will develop a reverence for it. And women in the armed forces are thorough professionals. Moreover, a female officer has recently been deployed to a post in the Saichen Glacier in a commanding role.
What needs to be done to ensure better women's participation in the armed forces?
While there has been overall improvement, more needs to be done to guarantee that women serving in the Indian military have access to high-quality healthcare and a nurturing environment that supports their health and well-being.
Moreover, people should be made aware of the professionalism that females reflect in the military. For example, when it comes to safeguarding medical supplies because there are high chances of pilferage, women are mostly deployed for duty because of their professionalism.
What kind of impact do cases of ill-treatment of women in the military, have on the general public?
Instances of harassment and discrimination in the armed forces do act as deterrents for women joining the armed forces. However, things are changing, and further acceptance is increasing. In order to address these issues, the Indian military has implemented gender equality and sensitivity training programmes.
The mental and emotional health of women in the military is also negatively impacted by reports of discrimination and harassment against them.
Tell us about the role of women empowerment in the military.
Women's empowerment is just to let men know that women are there. Women and men have different outlooks, and not all women or men have the same outlook either. Moreover, we also find instances of shaming in both genders. So, merit has to go beyond gender.
It is important to accept the physiological differences and carry on with the duty. Don't stop women from doing what they want to do because women are honest and hardworking, and they tend to give much more than men do because they must constantly prove their capability.