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Beyond the Babita Puniya Judgment

Remaking the Indian Military for Women

The judgment in the Babita Puniya case illustrates the gender stereotypes, inequality and discrimination deeply embedded in the Indian military. Even when the “women’s question” has been raised with respect to the army, it has been from the typical “male” standpoint.

The Supreme Court of India’s decision in The Secretary, Ministry of Defence v Babita Puniya and Others (2020) is being widely hailed as a victory for women officers in their fight against gender discrimination as well as an enforcement of their right to equality of opportunity and equal access to appointment and engagement in the Indian Army. The division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Ajay Rastogi proclaimed in unequivocal terms:

The time has come for a realization that women officers in the Army are not adjuncts to a male dominated establishment whose presence must be “tolerated” within narrow confines. (The Secretary, Ministry of Defence v Babita Puniya and Others 2020: para 57)

The nature of military institutions in India—both the structures and processes—are extremely masculine, having been male-dominated. So much so that it is men who have designed, constituted and operated the “military” from their own point of view since time imme­morial. Simply put, the military as we know it has always been “for, by, and of men.”

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Updated On : 18th May, 2020

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