A few days ago one of my friends, studying in a well-known engineering college in South Kolkata, was telling me about the trainee selection procedure of the Indian Army in their college. To my greatest surprise, he told me that female students are not eligible for applying to certain posts. On the same note, a few days back, I read an article about Indian Army’s new rule of not keeping women militants in the war front. Ironic that in a nation that is historically glorified by Rani Lakshmi Bai and Begum Hazrat Mahal, who both fought against the British, ‘the noblest job’ is characterised by vehement gender discrimination.
From a societal perspective, this gender bias is rooted in the mentality of the people. It is taken for granted that those ‘strenuous’, ‘physically hazardous’ jobs are only for the males. Women have always been debarred to pursue defence as a career, in one way or another. The Defence services themselves propagate this, with discrimination so blatant that most jobs have been prohibited for women.
The reason put forth by the service chiefs, is that in cases women being captured by the enemy, the troop would be highly demoralized. Instead of safety of women being a priority, the patriarchal mind-set of the authority inevitably falls back on the arguments of culture to justify keeping women out of this profession. The Constitution of India guarantees, under Article 19(vi), all individuals the Fundamental Right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, irrespective of religion, caste and sex. However the ‘reasonable restrictions’ put by the Constitution does not talk about gender bias, in any way.
If we talk about the defence services all together, the statistics shows that the Indian Army has just 3% women and the Navy 2.8%. The Air Force performs slightly better with 8.5%. Our country is also going through a phase of so much hullabaloo of so called ‘women empowerment’, ‘gender equality’, ‘freedom of choice’ – but the entire scenario once again leads us to an ambiguous conclusion, as our administration and central legislature, does not treat the issue with a spirit of social and gender justice.
Growth and development can only be ensured when there are equality of opportunities at workplace. Then why alienate the dynamic young women with patriotic fervour? Why should able women have to give a second thought when they see the Defence Services advertisements? It is high time that the Parliament gives out instructions, or formulate policy mechanisms, irrespective of sexual bifurcation. The Defence authorities should be more flexible and progressive as keeping women out of the marvelous arena of serving the country and out of the war front is nothing but primitive.
About the Author
I am a third year undergraduate student pursuing International Relations from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. I am an avid reader and have a flair for creative writing. Would like to involve myself with gender sensitivity and child welfare issues.
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