Much is being written and talked about women or “Lady” officers of the armed forces
and the raw deal that they are getting from the latter. By virtue of being a woman closely
associated with the services all my life ( I am a so-called Army brat and married to an Air Force officer) , I felt very proud when women of my generation were given the opportunity to join the services not only as doctors, but also as engineers, lawyers and administrative officers.
However, the downside to this was that other than doctors( who can opt for a permanent commission) , lady officers were allowed to join only as “Short Service Commisioned” officers, which means that they were allowed to serve for a period of 5 years, with two possible extensions of 3yrs each , that is for a period of 5 to 11 years( at present, they are allowed to serve for 10 years extensible to 14) .In addition to this, lady officers are also not allowed to serve in roles where there is the slightest chance of their being exposed to a war zone.
On the face of it, restricting women to a short service commission does seem unfair, but I’d like to think that maybe there is a logical reason (or two) behind it, like the fact that there was and continues to be a major shortage of officers at the junior level in the armed forces, and short service commissioned officers are generally recruited to make up for the same. Any officer, whether male or female, who joins the services as a short service commissioned officer is made aware of the following before joining-
a.) He or She will not get a pension at the end of their employment from the armed forces.
b.) The duration of service and possible extensions
Coming to the second fly in the ointment, women officers aren’t allowed to serve in combat , because of the probable risk of capture and subsequent torture or rape by the enemy, during a war. While it may be politically correct to argue that women should be allowed to take such a risk , but at the risk of sounding positively medieval and absolutely politically incorrect, I would like to point out that even in this day and age, most women still think twice about going out for a walk, unaccompanied, late at night….because of the probable risk of getting mugged or raped.
Another issue , which is widely speculated about these days, is that of pension and employment prospects left to women officers after retirement. Lady officers are entitled to all the benefits that any other male SSC officer would be entitled to. And as far as not getting a pension is concerned, as mentioned before , this was known to them before joining the service. In addition to this, it is worth mentioning here that even the male SSC officers don’t get a pension after retirement ,so where is the scope for unfair treatment that the media is crying foul about?
As far as employment prospects are concerned, I would just like to point out that I personally know many male officers, who have retired after 20 to 30 years of service ( mostly in their 40s to 50s) in the armed forces, and are employed at managerial positions in both private and public sector organizations, on and above par with their status in the armed forces at the time of retirement, in their field of expertise. So, why should a lady officer have a problem in doing the same ,considering that she has the option of retiring anywhere in her late 20s to mid 30s! The key word here is “choice” because by the very nature of their employment with the armed forces, lady officers effectively choose at what age they want to leave. This choice is not so easily available to permanent commissioned male officers who have to furnish a very strong reason for being allowed to leave the service at that age.
Before any “politically correct” reader decides to blast me off the face of this blog for being a woman “betraying” the cause, consider this- would any fair thinking, open minded ,reasonably competent and self respecting woman(or man) ,regardless of which organization she (or he) works in, feel the need to complain about the organization adhering to the terms and conditions of employment that has been agreed to by both parties at the onset of the said employment.