Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WOMEN IN THE NAVY (AND DEFENCE SERVICES) - Gender Equality is a Distant Dream

Gender Equality is a Distant Dream
Musings of Retired Military Veteran

Women Officers have been in the Indian Navy for 25 years now - enough time for “settling down”, “acclimatization”, “gender integration” etc.

It is high time women officers are given permanent commission and inducted in all branches of the Indian Navy and deployed on ships, submarines and all aircraft and made to undergo the same training and duties as their male counterparts.

All duties (at sea and ashore) should be “gender neutral” and there must be absolutely no difference in duties and service conditions between men and women officers.

Till that happens – inducting women in the Navy will be perceived to be an act of “tokenism” – trying to be “politically correct” – and as a “gender welfare” measure".

All modern Navies have women officers and sailors sailing on ships on sea and on air combat duties.

Last week I saw on TV – a program on a US Navy aircraft carrier – showing interviews with women officers/sailors on USS Carl Vinson.

Almost 30% of crew is women – there are more than 800 women officers/sailors on board the warship – and the aircraft carrier is deployed on operational duties.

There was a Lieutenant Woman Navy Fighter Pilot deployed on dangerous frontline combat missions carrying out air strikes against ISIS.

Another woman Commander who was commanding a Minesweeper, employed on hazardous minesweeping duties, was also interviewed.

Both women naval officers were married, had children, and were away from their families for over 2 years.

Many women sailors from various branches were also interviewed – and one could see that there was absolutely no difference between men and women as far as duties were concerned – yes – all jobs on board the ships were “gender neutral”.

The fact that all jobs (including frontline combat duties) were “gender neutral” indicated genuine “gender equality”.

Yes – after viewing the program on USS Carl Vinson – one was convinced that there was true “gender equality” in the US Navy.

Why don’t we have a similar situation the Indian Navy?

Unfortunately – in the Indian Navy – though women officers may be willing for seagoing combat duties on warships – will the “patriarchal” Admirals steeped in the “old mould” allow them to do so?

It is probably the same state of affairs in the other defence services too – women are willing to join all arms/services (including combat arms) – women are willing to undergo the same tough training and hardships as male officers – and women are mentally ready to perform hazardous frontline combat duties – but Generals with antiquated attitudes and old-fashioned mindsets will not allow women officers to demonstrate their full military potential by giving them the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

The Proof of the Pudding is the Eating.

Instead of imagining fictitious “worst case” scenarios and making all sorts of hypothetical assumptions – the Navy Top Brass should deploy women officers on sea duties on warships, submarines and seaborne aircraft – and see what happens.

Military Top Brass should do the same and deploy women officers on full-scale combat duties and Counterinsurgency/Internal Security Operations – and then see the actual performance of women officers on ground.

Why are Military Top Brass underestimating Indian Women and assuming that Indian Women are not fit for Combat Duties without giving them a chance to prove themselves – at sea, in air and on the battlefield.

Also – let’s see when Indian Armed Forces start inducting women as soldiers, sailors and airwomen.

If US Navy can have women sailors on ships – why can’t the Indian Navy?

Till both these things happen – as far as gender equality in the Navy (and defence services) is concerned – India will remain backward and way behind most modern developed nations.

Gender Equality in the Indian Navy (and Indian Armed Forces) is a distant dream.

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