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Panel asks army women for feedback

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Empowerment of Women has asked women officers to rate their military experience, reports Rahul Singh.
Hindustan Times | By Rahul Singh
UPDATED ON JUN 20, 2008 01:51 AM IST

Lawmakers want to know how the Indian military is treating its women. Accepted only in responsibilities as per general notions of gender, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Empowerment of Women has asked women officers to rate their military experience.

In a first, feedback has also been sought from women serving in forward areas regarding measures to improve their working conditions.

A senior officer in the Udhampur-based Northern Command told Hindustan Times, “A questionnaire has been circulated to women officers. The Committee wants a candid appraisal of working conditions from the women’s perspective.”

The idea, obviously, is to help women find their rightful place in an overwhelmingly male-dominated military culture. In an army of over 1.13 million, women officers numbering some 950 serve only in combat support roles such as logistics, communications, intelligence, education and legal services.

“Induction of women began in early 1990s but we are still marginalised in the army. There is lack of acceptance of women at the organisation level. Even after serving the army for 14 years, we get no pension. Limited tenure puts a ceiling on our promotions and permanent commission is a pipedream,” said a woman officer.

Lok Sabha MP Krishna Tirath, who heads the Committee, said, “We are figuring out ways to improve the working conditions of women in the military and para-military forces. The Committee is visiting forward areas in Jammu and Kashmir (from June 24) to get a first-hand account of their conditions of service.”

Another woman officer said, “We perform our jobs as efficiently as our male colleagues. But somewhere down the line, superiors doubt if we can handle situations on our own. Also, the government’s combat exclusion policy for women limits our career prospects.”

The Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), a panel consisting of the three service chiefs, had advised the government last year against inducting women in close combat roles as chances of physical contact with the enemy were high. Countries that allow women to serve in combat duties include Israel, Canada, the US, Finland and Norway.

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