Navy: Safe workplace for women Agniveers key

Published on Jan 21, 2023 12:15 AM IST

The guidelines will be sent to the commanding officers of all warships and other establishments before the women Agniveers report for duties. Sexual harassment cases have been reported in international navies, including those of the US, UK and France.

The navy’s first batch of Agniveers, recruited under the new Agnipath scheme, consists of 3,000 recruits including 341 women who are undergoing training at INS Chilka in Odisha (AFP)
The navy’s first batch of Agniveers, recruited under the new Agnipath scheme, consists of 3,000 recruits including 341 women who are undergoing training at INS Chilka in Odisha (AFP)
ByRahul Singh, New Delhi

The Indian Navy is putting together a comprehensive set of guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment on board its warships and other establishments ahead of its first batch of women Agniveers finishing their training and reporting for duties in April, officials familiar with the development said on Friday.

The navy’s first batch of Agniveers, recruited under the new Agnipath scheme, consists of 3,000 recruits including 341 women who are undergoing training at INS Chilka in Odisha. The navy will the first among the three services to induct women in the personnel below officer rank (PBOR) cadre in all branches. “Men and women will have to work together in the tight confines of warships,” said one of the officials cited above, on anonymity. “It is important to create a harassment-free workplace. While the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is there, the new guidelines will be in plain language with no room for any ambiguity,” he added.

The guidelines will be sent to the commanding officers of all warships and other establishments before the women Agniveers report for duties. Sexual harassment cases have been reported in international navies, including those of the US, UK and France.

The navy began inducting women as officers three decades ago, but they are being recruited as sailors for the first time under the Agnipath scheme. It is giving women officers more opportunities to serve aboard warships alongside their male counterparts, with several women already assigned to front-line ships operating in the broad expanse of the Indian Ocean Region.

The navy has also opened the doors of its elite special forces to women officers and sailors, a development that will allow them to serve as marine commandos (Marcos) provided they make the cut for selection, as previously reported by Hindustan Times.

The navy deployed four women officers on warships in early 2021 after a hiatus of almost 25 years, opening more roles to them and crushing gender barriers . As of December 2021, around 30 women officers were serving aboard around 15 warships.

In early 2021, India’s only aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and fleet tanker INS Shakti became the navy’s first warships to be assigned women crews (two each) since the late-1990s. In a short-lived experiment, women from the navy’s logistics and medical branches were deployed on fleet tanker INS Jyoti in 1997.

Nari Shakti is among the themes that the navy will highlight in its tableau at the Republic Day parade, officials said. Eight Agniveers, including three women, may also be a part of the naval marching contingent.

INS Chilka, the sprawling lakeside training campus, earlier got a raft of facilities to make life easier for the women who are on the threshold of a naval career. From earmarking new accommodation blocks exclusively for them to installing sanitary pad vending and disposal machines, and a separate dining area to hiring women staff, the navy took several measures to make the training establishment women-friendly.

Other changes made at INS Chilka include setting up of more toilets for women trainees, installation of security cameras and hiring women as matrons, swimming instructors and safai karamcharis.

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