Parliament panel slams defence forces on gender issues

August 17th, 2011 - 8:37 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) A parliamentary committee Wednesday came down heavily on the army, navy and the air force on issues of gender equality, saying the armed forces have to do more - not just increase the representation of women, but also provide them equal opportunities and in creation of a panel to probe harassment of women at the workplace.

In its report submitted to the Lok Sabha, the parliamentary committee on empowerment of women said the government should explore the feasibility of enhancing the number of women in the armed forces, particularly in branches other than the medical and dental services, where their number is only slightly better.

“The government should also explore the feasibility of enhancing their numbers in other service branches where they could be inducted without any limitations,” the committee, headed by Congress MP Chandresh Kumari Katoch, said in its report.

The report noted that the army had only 3.01 percent women, the navy 2.84 percent and the air force 8.55 percent in its services and branches, excluding the medical and dental services.

In the medical corps, the army, navy and air force had 13.72 percent, 17.83 percent and 21.18 percent respectively and in the dental corps, 16.44 percent, 4 percent and 19.35 percent respectively.

“Though there has been a progressive expansion of the induction profile of women in the armed forces over the years, the committee find that the overall presence of women in the forces, especially in the army and navy is not that significant,” it said.

The report noted that the army had been non-discriminatory while assigning duties to both men and women officers. “However, in regard to the grant of permanent commission to women, the army failed to adhere to its policy of non-discrimination,” it added.

Further, the report said, the army failed to explain why if the same women as short service commission officers were able to do the job successfully there would be any change when they are made permanent commission in the same job.

The committee asked the government to come up with “a dispassionate roadmap” for induction of women in permanent commission in more branches and corps where their expertise, talent and dedication could be utilised fully.

The panel also slammed the armed forces for not having an outside representation in the existing system of probing harassment of women at workplace. “Though the forces have made provisions to include a women officer in the committees on sexual harassment, there is no representation from outside the organisation, as per the Supreme Court guidelines in this regard,” the report said.

Though the parliamentary panel had no doubts over the integrity of the sexual harassment probe committees in the armed forces, its report said it was desirable to have representatives of non-government organisation in the committees, so as to alleviate even the slightest doubt about an impassionate verdict.

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