On Republic Day 2017 parade, the government was proud to showcase "women power" but in reality, the picture is different. The women officers in India are still not allowed to join the Indian Territorial Army unlike in countries such as Israel and the United States.
In the United States, women were allowed in combat roles as recently as 2013 after it lifted the 1994 ban on women in direct combat roles. In 1995, Norway became the first country to allow women to serve on submarines. Russian women have been fighting in combat since World War I. In fact from being snipers to driving tanks to flying plans, no role in the Soviet military was barred for women.
The Indian Territorial Army's role is "to relieve the Regular Army from static duties and assist the civil administration.. and to provide units for Regular Army as and when required." But as mentioned on their website, the Territorial Army allows only “Male Citizens of India and Ex-service officers who are medically fit and are gainfully employed" in government jobs.
This means a man who may be employed in government service or has been a legal practitioner, doctor, engineer, farmer or businessman is eligible to apply for Territorial Army leaving no scope for female ex-Service officers.
If the presence of Territorial Army is for civilian good, then by not allowing females to be a part of it is pure misogyny.
In 2015, Delhi High Court, while granting permanent commission to women in Naval services who have served for more than 14 years in army, observed that women were “here to stay”. Following the HC order, there is no reason why women should be stopped from serving in any security force.
The denial of service in territorial army to women is discriminatory and defies the basic Right to Equality that is the hallmark of the Constitution.
Conferment of equal status on women, apart from being a constitutional right, has been recognised as a human right. In the words of Kofi Annan, "There is no tool more effective than the empowerment of women for development of a country."
(The writer is an advocate and the petitioner in Kush Kalra vs Union of India. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)