The recent push for the nationalisation of the Indian army as departure from its colonial legacy seems a perfect time to review the problematic systemic practises that have existed for decades. However, the inability of the organisation to accept that sexism exists and the subsequent attacks on women who complain has its own misogynistic history, and it might be time for reform on that front as well.
I wrote a piece about the unfortunate harassment and exploitation, “army wives” face as a result of the structure of the organisation. That piece got a lot of attention, and a lot of people asked what we can do to make it better. This is what you can do.
The Indian Army is one of those untouchable bastions that cannot be criticized because, “Siachen me humare jawaan ladh rahe hai, but it has a long history of treating women like they’re entitled to our labour. AWWA, an NGO that officially is to have no bearing on the functioning of the army is used to pressure women into participating in norms and traditions like they’re law. How long as we expected to bear that with silence?
Women’s lives are governed by dress-codes but in the Indian Army, wives are obligated to dress in sarees for various events. Many people argue that this affinity for aestheticism shouldn’t be a big deal, but what if it’s not just an aesthetic choice? What if it’s not a choice at all? In this piece we discuss how forcing a woman to dress “beautifully” devalues us, and how the army dabbles in this casual oppression.
When a woman marries anyone in India she is compelled to change her identity in the name of tradition, but if a woman marries an army officer she may have to allow herself to be indoctrinated into a system that reduces her identity to a service she is never paid or thanked for. I refuse to let anyone call me an army wife, here is why.