Women in Army

Paper: II

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context of News:

  • The Supreme Court recently brought women officers in 10 streams of the Army on a par with their male counterparts in all respects, setting aside longstanding objections of the government. The case was first filed in the Delhi High Court by women officers in 2003, and had received a favourable order in 2010. But the order was never implemented, and was challenged in the Supreme Court by the government.

What Supreme Court observed?

  • Supreme Court, in a momentous ruling directed that women officers of the Indian Army, serving under Short Service Commission, be considered for grant of Permanent Commission, irrespective of tenure of service, and also for command posts in non-combat areas since “an absolute bar on women seeking criteria or command appointments would not comport with the guarantee of equality under Article 14.
  • Stating that “the absolute exclusion of women” from all command assignments except staff assignments is “indefensible”, the bench, rejected arguments against giving greater role to women officers and said their non-eligibility for command posts will be considered on case-to-case basis. It said “necessary steps for compliance with this judgment shall be taken within three months”.
  • The apex court has rejected arguments against inclusion, saying they are “based on sex stereotypes premised on assumptions about socially ascribed roles of gender which discriminate against women”. It has also said that it only shows the need “to emphasise the need for change in mindsets to bring about true equality in the Army”.

Earlier Argument for Denial of women Entry in Army:

  • Conventional Barriers:
  • Cultural barriers in society may be the biggest impediment to induction of women in combat.
  • The consequences of inserting a few women in an almost entirely male preserve, in cramped quarters, in inhospitable terrain, isolated from civilization, might raise conservative eyebrows of the society.
  • Another major question that needs to be studied is the acceptance of orders of the women officers by the jawans.
  • Physical Factors:
  • The natural physical differences in stature, strength, and body composition between the sexes make women more vulnerable to certain types of injuries and medical problems. This is particularly so during vigorous and intensive training.
  • Pre-entry physical fitness levels tend to be lower in most women recruits compared with men, and hence, when standards of training remain same for the two genders, there is a higher probability of injuries among the women.
  • Social and psychological issues:
  • Women tend to be more attached to their families, particularly their children. This translates into greater mental stress and requirement of social support to sustain themselves during prolonged separations from family.
  • Another social aspect leading to mental stress in women in the military is that of isolation. This is due to the fact that men far outnumber women in the military, particularly in combat zones.
  • The issue of military sexual trauma (MST) and its effect on the physical and mental well-being of women combatants is grave.
  • MST may lead to grave, long-term psychological problems, including posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSDs), depression, and substance abuse.
  • Physiological issues:
  • The natural processes of menstruation and pregnancy make women particularly vulnerable in combat situations. Lack of privacy and sanitation can result in an increased incidence of genitourinary infections.
  • The effect of prolonged deployment in difficult terrains and grueling physical activity on the reproductive health of women is still unknown.

Why this idea of giving women entry in Army is win-win Factor:

  • Denial of article 14:
  • Denial of women entry in Army was violation of Article 14 of our constitution, which is fundamental right. Article 14 negates talks about right to equality. This decision will establish balance in terms of negation of gender discrimination.
  • Doing away of gender Discriminatory Norms:
  • Societal norms of accepting women in nonphysical work were stereotypes and discriminatory leading to gender divide in our society.
  • The society has to be ready to accept that women too can play the crucial role of confronting the enemies. Arguments such as that Indian society is not ready to see women in body bags are misleading and should not be encouraged as an argument to stall women entry in combat roles.

Way Forward:

  • Arguments “only go to emphasise the need for change in mindsets to bring about true equality in the Army. If society holds strong beliefs about gender roles — that men are socially dominant, physically powerful and the breadwinners of the family and that women are weak and physically submissive, and primarily caretakers confined to a domestic atmosphere — it is unlikely that there would be a change in mindsets.
  • This decision is not only a step of bringing women on footsteps of men but it is also a step of harvesting half of our potential in form of women. This step is just a beginning for a new horizon.

But the bigger shift will have to take place in the culture, norms, and values of the rank and file of the Army, which will be the responsibility of the senior military and political leadership. After the Supreme Court’s progressive decision, they have no choice but to bite the proverbial


India’s birds suffering dramatic population declines, warns scientific report

GS Paper III

Topic: Environment and Biodiversity

Prelims: The State of India’s Birds 2020

What’s the News?

Over a fifth of India’s bird diversity, ranging from the Short-toed Snake Eagle to the Sirkeer Malkoha, has suffered strong long-term declines over a 25-year period, while more recent annual trends point to a drastic 80% loss among several common birds.

The State of India’s Birds 2020 (SoIB):

  • The SoIB was produced using a base of 867 species.
  • Adequate data on how birds fared over a period of over 25 years (long-term trend) are available only for 261 species.

Threats faced:

  • The assessment raises the alarm that several spectacular birds, many of them endemic to the sub-continent, face a growing threat from loss of habitat due to human activity, widespread presence of toxins including pesticides, hunting and trapping for the pet trade.
  • Diminishing population sizes of many birds because of one factor brings them closer to extinction because of the accelerated effects of others.
  • For every bird species that was found to be increasing in numbers over the long term, 11 have suffered losses, some catastrophically.

IUCN Status:

  • Of 101 species categorised as being of High Conservation Concern — 59 based on range and abundance and the rest included from high-risk birds on the IUCN Red List.
  • Raptors overall are in decline, with ‘open country’ species such as the Pallid and Montagu Harriers, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Red-necked Falcon suffering the most.
  • The severe long-term decline of vultures recorded and analysed for years now, is underscored by the report.
  • Meat-eater populations have fallen by half, and birds that depend on insects exclusively have also suffered over the long term.
  • But there has been some stabilisation for omnivores, seed and fruit eaters in recent years. Habitat impacts have decimated ‘specialist’ birds, which need specific environmental conditions to survive, particularly those dependent on forests.

Great Indian Bustard (GIB):

  • One of India’s major conservation concerns, the Great Indian Bustard (GIB), is being brought back from the brink.
  • Having lost about 90% of its population and range over a five-decade period, a viable population of GIB at Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is the focus of programmes run by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Birdlife International and other agencies, to eliminate the threat of fatal collisions with power lines.

Conclusion:

Habitat loss and fragmentation are known causes of species declines in general, but targeted research is needed to pinpoint causes of decline.