Women in the Armed Forces – a lost dream
I had a secret ambition during my high school days; an ambition which was fuelled by war movies Border, LOC Kargil, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, The Guns of Navarone, Haqeeqat etc and serials like Sea Hawk and Arohan. I was enamoured by the glamour and the prestige associated with the armed forces and as years progressed, I became more and more determined to join the defence services. Finally, after going through numerous internet articles, brochures, newspaper ads etc, I zeroed on a career in the Indian Air Force. My initial dream was to join the Flying Branch, but that was dashed to pieces just because women are not allowed in a combative role.
The first hurdle posed to me was the difficulty level of the test. Going through the conditions and the rigorous test schedules, I felt any other competitive examination would look like a cake-walk. I had the requisite physical attributes (height, weight and eyesight) and was willing to give my best shot in the test 😉 I never spoke about it much then, since I felt the time was not right to shock my poor parents and others by my choice of career. So, while my parents took it for granted that I would be going for a career in medicine, I was happily day dreaming about my life in the Air Force Academy in Hyderabad.
The next hurdle was the fact that I am a woman, trying to gain entry into an extremely male-dominated field. A lot of exciting options like the Flying Branch were closed to me. The few friends in whom I confided, tried to dissuade me by citing examples of the gender bias and discriminations faced by women in the army. Articles to the same affect were doing rounds in the internet, too. But the stubborn tomboy in me had already decided to battle it out hard.
Third, and the most important obstacle for me was the fact that women are allowed entry only in the Short Service Commission. I realised that after about 14 years, my career will be finished and I will be left with nothing. I also looked at options that people take up after the SSC, but none of them appealed to me. I had already made compromise in the choice of Branch, but this short tenure of service was a factor which posed the biggest question mark.
Precisely for the last reason, I was forced to shift my attention from armed forces towards something different and equally challenging – like law 🙂
Just before my campus recruitment, when recession has hit my law school just like the rest of the world, and job prospects became bleak. I focussed on Armed Forces again. This time, I toyed with the idea of JAG (Judge-Advocate General), the legal branch but again gave it up due to the reason of Short Service Commission and also due to the reason that after 14 years, my years as JAG would do nothing to my legal career.
This judgment has been long-awaited and hopefully will encourage more and more women to join the armed forces. Now, no woman dreaming of making it one day to the armed forces, will opt out due to gender discrimination, like I had to.
Now, I have crossed the upper age limit for the armed forces examinations. Moreover, presently I am fully ensconced in a professional career in law. Armed Forces is now just a lost dream for me.