Women in Indian Army

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Victimization of Women in the Armed Forces

A Paper on the Ethical Macro Issue

Submitted by:

Chandni Sarda

10BCE0071

III Year, V SEM

A2 Slot

Women have been serving in the armed forces for quite a long time, post-Independence. However, they worked only as a part of the Armed Medical Corps, Armed Dental Corps and the Military Nursing Service. The first batch of women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers joined in 1992. This resulted from a visit of a Service Chief to the United States, where he saw women participate in the guard of honor and was visibly impressed. Deciding that India should not lag in this respect either, the decision to induct women into the Indian Army was taken. Since 1993, the Indian Army, as well as the Air Force and the Navy, have been recruiting female officers.

Today, there are a substantial percentage of women in the armed forces with the Army counting 2.44% of women in its ranks, the Navy 3% and the Air Force 6.7%.

The induction of women into the armed forces has served to address the greater ethical issues of women’s liberation, establishment of gender equality, women’s advancement in the country and works to break the male chauvinistic mind set of our society.

But this is an ideal scenario. In reality, women working in the armed forces are constantly being victimized in a male dominated professional environment. There are several cases where women officers have been unfairly punished for various offences. In majority of these cases, sexual harassment by senior male officers was resented, which led to the victimization. Usually, a legal procedure is involved to authenticate the victimization. Hence, as an undeclared measure, punishment is awarded to women who dare to speak out against their senior officers. There are numerous examples where Court Marshall proceedings have been initiated against women who have dared to speak against the sexual harassment they have faced while on duty.  There are number of pending cases in which the army officers particularly lady officers asked inquires against their bosses or comrades in connection with sexual harassment. According to the media, more than 40 cases of sexual harassment have been reported during the last seven years. 

Case 1: Sacking of Captain Poonam Kaur

Captain Poonam Kaur lodged a complaint on July 15, 2008, against three officers of her unit, 5682 Battalion of the Army Supply Corps based in Kalka, Haryana for mentally and sexually harassing her and illegally confining her when she resisted their advances. In her complaint she names Colonel R K Sharma, Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Chawla, Second-in-Command and Major Suraj Bhan, Adjutant of the Unit. A court of Inquiry (COI) was ordered to investigate the allegations leveled by Captain Kaur.

These officers denied all allegations against them during the COI. Captain Kaur’s counsel claimed that “Her charges of sexual harassment against Col R K Sharma, Lt Col Chawla and Major Suraj Bhan were never investigated by the COI and the Army authorities never looked into them. Her allegations against these officers have been put under the carpet".

The COI, on July 11, 2009 finally sacked Captain Kaur for leveling false allegations of physical and mental harassment against her seniors. "The Court Martial has ordered her dismissal from service. Capt Kaur had been charged on 10 counts including disobedience, making false allegations against superior officers and addressing the media pertaining to service matters," said Kaur's counsel and retired Colonel S K Aggarwal. The Army court's decision, which came after about five months of hearing, will now go to the Western Army Commander Lt Gen T K Sapru for confirmation.

Kaur has faced a lot of flak for bringing these allegations of sexual harassment out in the media. But, the fact is, that had she not, people would have not come to know the situation of women officers in the armed...
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