Raksha Mantri approves the posting of Women Officers of the Territorial Army along the Line of Control

Context: In a major development, the Ministry of Defence, Department of Military Affairs, has approved an amendment to existing cadre management provisions for Women Officers of the Territorial Army (TA).

About Territorial Army

  • The Territorial Army is a part of the Regular Army.
  • Its present role is to relieve the Regular Army from static duties and assist Civil Administration
  1. In dealing with natural calamities and maintenance of essential services in situations where the life of the communities is affected or the security of the Country is threatened and
  2. To provide units for the Regular Army as and when required.

Arguments in favour

Military Readiness: Allowing a mixed-gender force keeps the military strong. The all-volunteer forces are severely troubled by falling retention and recruitment rates. Widening the applicant pool for all jobs guarantees more willing recruits. Women, who choose to become active combat soldiers, are unlikely to shirk their duty by becoming pregnant after a call-up as these women have willingly joined the army.

Effectiveness: The blanket restriction for women limits the ability of commanders in theatre to pick the most capable person for the job.

Tradition: Training will be required to facilitate the integration of women into combat units. Cultures change over time and the masculine subculture can evolve too. Many previously masculine professions have been successfully opened to women over the past century like driving, managing, judging etc.

Modern warfare and public support: In the modern world of combat (Afghanistan, Iraq), all women serving in the military are exposed to “front-line risks”. Support for women serving in the armed forces has not wavered as warfare has changed, a clear sign that the necessity of women serving in combat is recognized.

Cultural Differences & Demographics: Women are more effective in some circumstances than men. Allowing women to serve doubles the talent pool for delicate and sensitive jobs that require interpersonal skills not every soldier has. Having a wider personnel base allows militaries to have the best and most diplomatic soldiers working to end the conflict quickly.

Career advancement: As combat, duty is usually regarded as necessary for promotion to senior officer positions, denying female personnel this experience ensures that very few will ever reach the highest reaches of the military and so further entrenches sexism. Women have to be given the same opportunities as men, in the army in order to have the same opportunities they have to be exposed to the same risks

Arguments in opposition

Physical Ability: While the majority of jobs in the armed forces are open equally to men and women, there are some to which women are just not physically suited. The standards of physical fitness have been set to suit men, and women attempting to reach them will over-stretch themselves.  In addition, combat units engage in activities designed to suit men’s capabilities. Women serving in integrated units will suffer higher injury rates as a result of this.

Efficiency: Some women will be able to meet the required standards, but most will not. While the integration of women into combat is possible for those qualified, the small number versus the additional logistical, regulatory and disciplinary costs associated with integration does not make it a worthwhile move.

Morale & Cohesion: Having women serving in direct combat may hamper mission effectiveness by hurting unit morale and cohesion.

Military readiness: Pregnancy can affect the deployability of a unit when the unit has a disproportionate number of women or is understaffed.

Tradition: Men, especially those likely to enlist, maintain traditional gender roles. In some situations, men may act foolishly to protect women in their combat units. Harassment and resentment of the presence of women in a hyper-masculine military subculture would likely become a problem.

Abuse by Enemy: Both male and female prisoners are at risk of torture and rape, but misogynistic societies may be more willing to abuse woman prisoners.

Mains practice question:

Critically evaluate the initiative of integration of women into the armed forces of India. (150 words,10 marks)

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