On pregnant IAF pilots and Barbora-ic remarks

If you’ve ever wondered why there aren’t enough women in the Indian Armed Forces, now you know why. The Vice Chief Air Marshal P K Barbora of the Indian Air Force has just let the world know exactly how misogynistic he is.

“In a few years time, we might see this change (women getting inducted as fighter pilots) coming in with certain pre-conditions that till this age we request you to be happy, be married, but no offsprings,” IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal P K Barbora told reporters. “After 13-14 years of service, investments made on fighter pilots are actually recovered by the government,” he said in an indication that women fighter pilots will be allowed to have kids only after putting in 13-14 years in IAF.

IAF

Picture courtesy IBNlive

The news article helpfully goes on to explain:

Now, women in the age group of 21-23 years are inducted into the flying branch and may be allowed to start family after crossing the 35-37 years age bracket. The IAF Vice-Chief said if a woman pilot has to take pregnancy leave, she will be off-flying for around 10 months, which will not be fruitful for both her and the service.

I was indignant when I read his remarks, but I realize I am looking at them in completely the wrong spirit.

For one thing, Mr. Barbora did say women pilots can be  married, which is better than the case with air hostesses and some airlines.  He does not say that women pilots should not even marry until they are 35, see ? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing at that concession ?

Legions of unmarried daughters who are being forced by their mothers to get married before they are 30 should also applaud Mr. Barbora.  For isn’t he propounding the theory that women can (and should, if they are IAF pilots) get pregnant only after 35?  So much for the biological clock bugbear that mothers constantly warn about.  Of course, at age 37 and above, some women may need fertility treatment, but I am sure Mr. Barbora will pay for any such treatment at his own expense.

Or maybe he has a secret opinion (reserved for airing at a later date) that IAF women pilots shouldn’t have children anyway.   If they are making all those sacrifices for the nation, why not just add not having children to the list?  That way, he can save on those 10 months of leave (though I wonder, how does he arrive at that generous figure of 10 months?)  And somehow, I can see the IAF has no concept of paternal leave/ family leave.  So male pilots are free to have children whenever they want – it’s not as if they’d like to help with the baby anyway.

Mr. Barbora also seems to show off his chivalrous gentleman personality:

Citing reasons for services not inducting women into combat arms, Barbora said, the armed forces “feel that it is not right to have a lady or a woman exposed to a conflict where she can be a prisoner of war.” “Secondly, psychologically, are we fit? another factor,” he added.

What consideration!  Women, obviously, are fragile creatures who  need to be protected and safeguarded, and the best way is to confine them in the kitchen – they would be safe there, won’t they?  What if they go to war and *shock* get captured ? They might be imprisoned !! Which is why we should confine them to the kitchen.

The last line, of course, is the coup de grace – women aren’t psychologically fit?  I did not realize that all women were raving lunatics.  Can Mr. Barbora elaborate on this?  I’d really like to know more about his er, very interesting thoughts.

I wonder, though – Mr. Barbora said “are we fit?”, so did he include himself in the psychologically unfit category? Nah, it can’t be a Freudian slip.

A couple of days after those remarks, Mr Barbora issued a clarification today, saying that the remarks were “his own personal opinion” and not that of the IAF or the Defence Ministry.  He did not, obviously, feel the need to apologize, but merely to “clarify”.

That’s really comforting to know, I suppose. Women pilots thinking of a career in the IAF will be really happy to know that the IAF itself is not openly and unapologetically misogynistic, only the #2 guy in the IAF is.

And yes, I am still waiting to hear about any reaction/ action against Mr. Barbora from the Defence Ministry/ IAF.

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51 thoughts on “On pregnant IAF pilots and Barbora-ic remarks

  1. Lekhni: If it weren’t for laws making saying so illegal, few small businesses would willingly hire women of child-bearing years as employees. They just cannot afford the costs of replacement hiring, statutory pay, the need to keep the job open etc. Some small business owners in the UK, including women, have gone on record to say so and face much malign.

    Fighter pilots, because they make a tiny % of all trained pilots, have to be looked at like a small business inside a larger IAF. They are in-charge of extremely expensive equipment and are trained accordingly. The recruitment process is very tough which means only a small % of pilots can actually get in to train as fighter pilots. After all that, would you begrudge an employer for feeling upset about losing their prize assets?

    His arguments while crassly-made and hugely non-PC are actually articulating what many employers think and practise as far as they can. If it weren’t so, pipelines for senior roles and board roles in corporate organisations would be far better populated. But they are not.

    The solution is not in criticising each time the issue is raised – however badly or smoothly it may be worded – but in larger organisational change, in what Sylvia-Ann Hewlett calls “on-ramps” and “off-ramps” for women who wish to have families. So who’ll be first to bring about that change? I haven’t seen a mad scramble yet. Have you?

    • Countries have a huge social incentive to ensure their population growth rate stays around the replacement rate (i.e. 2 per couple) and obviously, this benefit comes with social costs. It’s a different question as to whether employers should be compensated by the govt. for this social cost – but in this case, the employer IS the government. So no, I don’t understand why he thinks taking maternity leave (in peacetime, for all bets are off in wartime) is such a big deal.

      I agree this is the prevailing mentality – that women are somehow on a paid vacation when they get pregnant, and that having children is something that only benefits them. Countries with low birth rates are waking up too late, but even there the mentality hasn’t changed.

      Yes, we need organizational change – and that will only happen when people stop reinforcing such outmoded beliefs.

      • Lekhni: Statutory pay and maternity leave are all measures legislated by the State to serve this exact purpose. But to impose them uniformly is to obligate everyone to the social cause. That is unfair.

        Barbora’s comment as far as I can see are about fighter pilots and not widely about pilots, who are serving in transportation or other functions in flying.

        And these “beliefs” can be called outmoded when only-women-can-bear-children becomes an outmoded thing!

        Change has to come while this remains a reality and in fact will only come when this reality is acknowledged and built into hiring, promotion, development and other human resource planning schemas. If we pretend that women’s pregnancy is not a “real” issue, what is there to change?

  2. I agree with Shefaly’s comment. While his statement was quite inappropriate, I can see his point. It costs approximately INR 12 crores per IAF fighter pilot for training costs. So whether it’s men or women, a mandatory no-leaves agreement needs to be enforced for at least 8-10 years – specially for a financially lacking 3rd world country. Obviously there were far better ways to state this in a more elegant manner.

    • But then, Nish, there’s no elegant way to say “you can’t have children for 10 years”. You can continue the status quo – not have women IAF pilots, but you cannot recruit a woman and impose pre-conditions like that.

      And honestly, is this really the biggest threat to the IAF’s training costs? I’d say the IAF would save far more if they can find a way to stop their fighter jets from falling off the sky every now and then. They can save pilots’ lives (and the INR 12 crore training costs per pilot) and the cost of the fighter jets themselves.

      • Lekhni: Two of my friends, who were both excellent fighter pilots, died in their late 20s on accidents that happened on complicated exercises. One of my oldest friends from school is a Wing Commander, who has narrowly escaped in a reconn mission. Why planes fall off the sky is a complex function of man-machine interaction and the environment and conditions in which they fly. Training is not lacking. And it is safe to assume that pilots with young families are not being callous/ exercising their deathwish when flying. I feel this is a slightly insensitive thing to say.. :-/

      • Shefaly, you are reading too much 🙂 All I’m saying is – planes are falling out of the sky. There have been 9 crashes this year, and as far as I know, this is not an unusual year. It’s getting to the point where we all know a pilot who has died. This is tragic. I don’t why this is happening, and I am not going to speculate why or cast blame. All I know is the IAF needs to fix this fast, and not focus on other issues which look minor in comparison – like how many days of maternity leave would be lost by inducting women fighter pilots.

      • Oh, I guess I should have stated this more firmly in my first post, but I absolutely do not condone the do-not-get pregnant pronouncement he made, and I personally thought it was in extremely poor taste. When I said there were more elegant ways to achieve this business/financial need, I meant something like insisting on an agreement that disallowed a candidate from taking more than 2 weeks of vacation in a year, continuous training throughout the first 10 years, or an insistence on maintaining a certain level of fitness including a permissible BMI weight range.

        This would automatically rule out men and women with predictable health conditions which would render them useless in air combat, and incidentally this would also imply than any woman planning to bear a child is also unconditionally disqualified. Had he said that, while you could still question his misogynistic motives, it would have been a politically correct non-controversial statement that would not have made the news like it has now. And it would also not have painted our country as being culturally insensitive to women, which unfortunately is not far from the truth – but then why proclaim it like this guy did? *grin*

      • Nish: The additional tests that take place between NDA –> Air Force Academy and Pilot Training –> Fighter Pilot Training filter out unfit persons in a ruthless but essential manner. Women, who have become fighter pilots will have passed all those stages. Now while a perfectly healthy person can have a heart attack and drop dead, regardless of gender, only a woman could get pregnant so we are essentially discussing discrimination-due-to-systemic-issues :-/ Which is why the _specificity_ of exclusions is an important factor to consider.

  3. While his statement was not in good taste, too much was read that led to incorrect inferences in your analysis.

    First things first. When he says it is not right for women to be in combat and possibly a prisoner of war… inferring that he wants all women to be confined to the kitchen is grossly unfair. For all you know, his wife/daughter herself would be a brave and bold women working somewhere in the corporate world. But war situation is different. Prisoner of war is not such a royal position to be in and it gets even uglier(read sexual abuse) in the case of women.

    Being a father of two, I can say that pregnant women will not be comfortable flying as a passenger in a commercial jet, let alone as a pilot in a fighter jet, for few months during and after pregnancy. “Off-flying for 10 months” sounded quite fair to me. It has been mis-construed as 10-month pregnancy leave in your analysis.

    While his comments were not politically correct, I feel that this analysis reeked more of feminism than objectivity.

    • I was responding to the line “The IAF Vice-Chief said if a woman pilot has to take pregnancy leave, she will be off-flying for around 10 months,” but you’re right, maybe it does not mean 10 months of pregnancy leave but leave + ground-based duties. I’m not in favor of pilots flying when pregnant either, but surely they can be temporarily assigned ground-based duties? It’s 10 months in a 15+ year career span..

  4. Take it from someone who has personally been pregnant, but even had I completed the arduous physical and mental regimen to become a fighter pilot, I would not want to risk a pregnancy due to the G-Forces and uncomfortable confines that can exist in a fighter jet’s cockpit. OTOH, commercial pilots who are pregnant can easily, depending on how fit they feel, manage to work till about the last trimester, when the risks of giving birth on a flight might outweigh the ability to pilot a plane.
    (I would not want to be on a flight with the pilot undergoing labor pains, I’ve driven on the day I had my second kid, and it is not a picnic to be able to focus on driving, let alone flying, while dealing with labor pains- sorry if this is TMI.)
    Crass though Air Marshall Barbora’s comments might seem, aren’t there similar restrictions on women candidates in place for certain other occupations, such as mining engineers? I still seem to recall ‘male candidates only’ in some of the ads for public sector units in UP and Bihar for such posts.

    • You’re right, I wouldn’t want a pilot to be flying when pregnant, especially not in the later trimesters 🙂

      Actually, I have less issue with “no women” than “yes, you can apply, but we will tell you when you can have children”. If the IAF decides to recruit women fighter pilots, surely it can be a better thought out decision, and they can find out what the USAF and others who recruit women fighter pilots handle the issues.

      • “Actually, I have less issue with “no women” than “yes, you can apply, but we will tell you when you can have children”.”

        ————
        That, IMO, is a reasonable expectation, given the amount of time/effort/money that goes into training these pilots. If a female candidate is willing take on those restrictions, that of focussing solely on career for about 8-10 years before starting a family etc., she should be given all opportunity for advancement that a male counterpart would have. After all, it isn’t difficult to prevent pregnancy in this day and age. If the Air marshall had stated it in those terms, he would be probably facing less censure than what he is now subjected to. Like it or not, until men suddenly develop the ability to carry babies to term in their body, they will not be likely subject to similar restrictions.

      • I was thinking about that too – that there will always be women who will be willing to face those restrictions and become fighter pilots. But if employers were to start imposing such highly intrusive restrictions citing reasons of cost or whatever, that would be a really dangerous precedent and a slippery slope for all women.
        I’m trying to think of all the ways that say, investment banks could find to use such a clause 😛

      • Are you sure such a clause doesn’t already exist in investment banking, albeit hidden? Glass ceilings of this variety probably still are the reason for why women in their prime reproductive years are not going to make it to the top echelons even in many other industries. Those who are willing to postpone or forgo ‘family lives’ are always at an advantage. It’s a personal decision that they have to make. There are ways to make it work, but that still comes at a cost.

  5. I agree with the commenters here, especially Sujatha. While Air Marshal Barbora’s comments have been insensitively worded, I can see his point and I think you have over-reacted.

    Fighter pilots require levels of fitness beyond the ordinary, and pregnancy can cause bodily changes which will affect those levels. So yes, the truth is if you want to be a female fighter, it is advisable not to get pregnant.

    Restrictions on women in dangerous fields isn’t as much about the supposed inability of women to handle those situations, but whether such situations are worth risking just to prove that equal opportunities are provided to women. A woman who is a prisoner of war faces the prospect of much more severe torture because of her gender. It’s the truth, and an ugly one at that. Attitudes towards gender equality will hopefully improve in India, but you can’t guarantee the same for the enemies who take our soldiers as POWs.

    • I agree with you that you cannot fly in a fighter jet while you are pregnant, but given that the amount of time you are going to be pregnant is going to be about 5% of your total career, surely they can reassign pregnant women?

      As for POWs, there are women officers in the Indian Army too, and they would face the same risks. It’s not a new risk that fighter pilots will face.

      • None of the women officers in the Indian army are sent into combat, because of the risks that come with being a POW. At the most, they may be deployed close to the combat zone as per their skills and expertise (like how it’s done in the US army.)

        As for the pregnancy, as someone pointed out, training to be a fighter pilot is very intense, and its not something that you can simply brush up your skills in after a return from childbirth. Thus, reassignment, while possible, is extremely costly and time-consuming because the time gap that is required to recover from a childbirth and return to service would be much too long for a female fighter pilot to simply pick up from where she left off.

        As the commenter “??!” points out below, in any armed conflict, it is women and children who are subjected to sexual torture. Read up on the atrocities happening in the Congo – the level of violence inflicted on women caught in the crossfire is unimaginable. A common risk for pilots in combat is that enemies can shoot their planes and force them to land in their territory and thus they have a greater risk of being taken prisoner.

        I’m all for gender equality, but I think it is much better to have women contributing to the nation in the safety of home territory than being taken prisoner in some foreign country and raped and tortured beyond repair. Yes, I have no doubt that some survivors may be able to cope with it, but there will definitely be a difference in being subjected to sexual abuse in one’s home country (where there is a judicial system and counselling immediately at hand and thus a chance of justice and rehabilitation) and in a desolate land at the mercy of enemies. It’s hard enough for families of male soldiers to cope with death, disability, torture etc (I shuddered on reading the account of what happened to Lt. Saurabh Kalia.) I cannot even begin to imagine the state of women soldiers’ loved ones.

        In this case, prevention is better than cure.

  6. I can name at least a dozen gynaecologists (all women) who would agree that pregnancy does not mix well with a job that requires regular time spent in the air. More so if said time is spent flying a military plane.
    Shefaly‘s first comment is spot on. And I agree with Sujatha & Brown Suga’.
    One other thing. I would never want any military commander in my country to feel that she/he has to watch what they say and be politically correct at all times. Political correctness in the military is almost as oxymoronic as Military Justice.

    • I agree too, that one shouldn’t fly when actually pregnant.

      This is not about political correctness, seriously, this is far beyond that. I am not objecting to his wording, but the content of the remarks and the attitude it shows.

      • I meant both attitude and voicing out when I said the military does not need to be political correct.

        PS. Great discussion in the comments 🙂

      • Oh yes, great discussion! I love the thoughtful comments by everyone. Love the logical, dispassionate analysis and the different perspectives.

  7. lekhni:
    unlike civilian enterprises fighter detachments of the airforce are a special breed. if a lady officer joins as a fighter pilot at 21 and is trained and put into a fighter squadron in a years time, she would have nearly 8 years after that within which to have a baby, so to speak. If a lady officer were to stop flying after the first trimester (pls note – stop flying != away on leave), then for nearly a year, the squadron would be short of a pilot. assuming the officer were to rejoin after an absence post-delivery, she would then have to retrain. this is additional overhead in as much as re-training an officer. so within a period of say 8 years, teh lady officer will have to be trained and re-trained once if she has one kid. in case of more than one, service becomes too disrupted unless they are very widely spread apart. This causes extra expense. We can bear that as we’re galloping along in the economic front. But the airforce is more concerned with personnel availability. And war isn’t always planned. So peacetime can change to wartime in the blink of an eye like Kargil.

    I haven’t quite seen how the americans handle female fighter pilots and these issues. Would certainly help to gain from their experience in these situations. Besides, the IAF already employs lady pilots in their transport squadrons and so does the Navy in the maritime surveillance squadrons. So its not like there is a blanket ban on lady officers in the armed forces.

    As for ‘planes falling from the sky’. Let us not be naive and blame the air force for that. Despite hte best maintanence, crashes occur. We have atrocious waste management close to airports leading to bird hits. Also, some of the aircraft that form part of the AF are pretty old. Besides, fighter pilots need training on the proper platforms. The venerable Mig-21 is a supersonic fighter and training young pilots on such an unforgiving platform is only asking for trouble. But why is the IAF doing such a thing? Well the various governments set their fat asses on the acquisition of jet flight trainers for nearly 20 years. Yes TWENTY years. The IAF selects an aircraft and asks the MoD to buy it. But it is upto the MoD to do that. The british made Hawk Jet trainers were bought only recently and the contracts were such a mess that we’re now going to buy new trainers again. Any guesses on when this will go thru? Like the infamous artillery acquisitiosn for the army I think.

    Rather than blaming the AF, who are trying to make do with both hands tied behind their backs, we should really ask the government what the eff they’re doing about it. With a shortage of pilots, the AF should really be clapping its hands with glee to accept lady officers. But there are others things to take care of too, which are as important if not more. Also, while the media harps on the crashes each time, I would like people to compare crash rates of the IAF with other airforces. Ever heard of the nickname ‘lawndart’ for the venerable F-16 that the americans fly? Why did it get it?

    Last but not least, we are not surrounded by neighbours who are upright gentlemen. Let me remind you of what happened to Lt. Saurabh Kalia and Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja. Are we as a society ready to face situations like these? Granted, we will still wring our hands and cry to the UN that they have violated the geneva conventions but are we ready for this? I’m not a chauvinist even if that last line may seem so. It is a sincere question that I think even the AF would like answered. no offense to anyone!

    • You make great points about the practical issues – like the extra expense of re-training etc.

      About the re-training, I would assume that there would normally also be regular re-training as new fighter jets are inducted and so on? And routine periodic re-training of all fighter pilots?

      You mentioned fighter pilots in the USAF – that’s a good point. USAF has women fighter pilots, even Pakistan has women fighter pilots. The IAF can learn from their experience on how they handle these issues.

      • Yes they do. In fact training is done at several levels right from beginners flying training to type-specific training on a platform. It is a continuous process. So in effect, its not like every other pilot in the squadron is twiddling their thumbs ready to fight and the lady officer gets back and has to start all over again 🙂

        But it still means a loss of flying hours during that period. Of course, that doesn’t mean we tell them not to have kids at all. Thats just plain dumb.

  8. Most of the above commenters have made the points I wanted to, which essentially disagreed with your analysis. Yes, the guy’s comments sound utterly condescending, but let’s also just give him the benefit of the doubt that he was being quoted by one of the Indian papers. And I really wouldn’t trust those papers to even quote accurately anymore.

    Nevertheless, one point that you got so upset about, and which nobody has commented on, is how he’s stupid in wanting to ‘protect’ women pilots from being capturer. You say “they might be imprisoned!”, as if that’s the worst that can happen to them, and that’s why his comment was so stupid. Wrong.

    Look at the history of any armed conflict, and you will find that while men are subjected to torture, women face a far worse fate – sexual torture. Look at the events in Sudan, where the militia have been systemically targetting civilian women to spread a system of fear. And while it is extremely hard to rehabilitate POWs who have suffered deprivation, it would be so much harder to rehabilitate women POWs who would have faced constant threats (and implementation) of something as utterly destructive as rape.

    Which is not to say that they wouldn’t be able to cope with it. Any person who joins the armed forces is aware of the dangers facing them, but I think the guy was trying to highlight the fact that it’s worse for women, without being too indelicate about it.

    • I agree with you on the POW risk, but all women in the Armed Forces face that risk – women officers in the Indian Army do too. By that logic, we should never have women anywhere near the front-lines. Why is that logic peculiar to fighter pilots?

    • Look at the history of any armed conflict, and you will find that while men are subjected to torture, women face a far worse fate – sexual torture.

      So you think men can’t be sexually tortured? Well, you must go to jail once and find out.

      I’m sure women are aware of the dangers just as any man is, so why do we need to shield women from such dangers that they are obviously volunteering for? Why aren’t your sympathies extended to the men who might also be tortured, sexually or otherwise?

      • I *know* for a fact that men can be sexually tortured (please read through my comment properly.)I personally know a few men who have been sexually abused (though not in armed conflict.) They have more than just my sympathies, because I myself have been a victim of molestation. It is presumptuous on your part to assume that I have no sympathies for the men who go to war – on the contrary, I am one of their most ardent supporters, being the daughter of a military officer myself.

        I was concentrating on the women because I felt that a pregnancy while on fighter pilot duty might rob them of those extra hours of training essential to their job (since a healthy childbirth requires sufficient antenatal and postnatal care.) In such a situation, male pilots are likely be at a advantage since the training they would receive during the absence of their female comrades will definitely make a difference to their abilities in a combat situation. When the female pilots return to work, the men from their batch would be ahead in terms of training and experience, so they are unlikely to be deployed together, and this might result in a lesser number of pilots than needed at hand.

        I don’t believe in shielding women from missions that they’re volunteering for, but it’s not right to send a soldier, who has lost out on some training due to pregnancy, on dangerous missions. All soldiers, men and women, are trained to be extraordinary valiant, but they’re human at the end of it. War is horrible, and having to send our men and women on missions from which they may not return alive is horrible. You are absolutely right that sexual torture for anyone, man or woman, is the worst fallout of any armed conflict – but unfortunately, there seems to be no end to that in today’s world.

      • All:
        At no point was I suggesting that men too are not victims of sexual torture. You don’t even have to go into cases of POWs – Indian police brutality stories are sufficient.

        I was simply pointing out that that was the implicit message behind his comment, not just (as Lekhni said) the fear that they will be imprisoned. And of course I don’t agree with him and his very “hum mard hamaari maa-beheno ki raksha karege” attitude.

        ***********

        That said, I would still argue that it would be women who would be subject more immediately to such victimisation, whereas men would first be subjected to ‘standard’ torture tactics. And yes, women army officers too are potentially in such danger, and it’d be interesting to see how many Indian women officers are posted to the front line too.

    • //one point that you got so upset about, and which nobody has commented on, is how he’s stupid in wanting to ‘protect’ women pilots from being capturer (sic). //

      Nobody commented on it because those risks are the same for both genders. Men too get raped and women are also implicated in perpetrating torture on male POWs (think Lynddie England and in a civilian context, the growing numbers of women abusers being brought to attention to Childline and being brought to the book such as the woman who ran a paedo ring on Facebook).

  9. Hi,

    I wanted to say you are doing a great job of handling dissenting comments and keeping the discussion civil.

    I think more than anything, the defence services and the police need to find good spokespeople that can voice opinions in a politically correct manner. Not everybody is trained to handle questions from the media and this is what leads to such unintended comments! He could have said that they are looking into this and will develop a policy after analysing what other countries are doing.

    Veena

    • Thanks! I’m glad you feel that way. Though really, there’s nothing I can do to make the discussion civil, I’m only glad trolls haven’t come in to start name-calling and change the topic.

      Like you, I also wish he had said he was looking into it or something like that – not because it is PC but because, with his views, it would have been the wiser option 😀

    • “Women combatant officers”? So the Indian Navy has women in combat? That was a great article – very inspiring, thanks for sharing that link.
      Isn’t it funny and ironic that those women are attached to the air arm ? 🙂 They aren’t flying fighter jets, though – unless patrol aircraft qualify.

      • MPAs aren’t fighters but they do take part in ‘combat’ with surface and sub-surface naval elements when the need arises. I would say thats closer to combat than flying transport squadrons. Lady officers flying the Mig-29K off the Vikramaditya would of course be kick-ass 🙂

  10. At the risk of sounding a little crude, the Vice Chief has kicked off a debate. Better than no debate and no action. This is not just about opinion but also about two highly specialized areas of expertise – defence and human body who have mutually contra requirements at certain points. As a consultant by profession, my take is that we have to see an optimization at the level of defence than at the system level (defence and human body put together, where you sacrifice benefits on both sides for overall good). Imagine a squadron partially unable to get airborne because the commanding officer till yesterday has reported a pregnancy this morning. Anyone agrees?

    On another note, I am not sure I like this Magazine theme, maybe because I have come here after a long time.

    • My take is that we have to see an optimization at the level of defence than at the system level (defence and human body put together, where you sacrifice benefits on both sides for overall good).Imagine a squadron partially unable to get airborne because the commanding officer till yesterday has reported a pregnancy this morning. Anyone agrees?

      I wholeheartedly agree! Perfectly put.

      • “Imagine a squadron partially unable to get airborne because the commanding officer till yesterday has reported a pregnancy this morning. Anyone agrees?”

        Can’t say I agree with this. The chain of command in the armed forces is set up such that missions are not dependent on the availability of a single person. The second in command is fully trained to pick up the threads and complete the exercise. Sorry, but the argument that you’ll suddenly become pregnant and not be able to complete your duties is not correct. Anyone can fall sick or have an accident and take a day off!

  11. P.S. I too commend the owner and commenters on this post. What a relief to come across civil discussions on the internet, in this age of anonymous trolling!

  12. hi , just a few clarification regarding that women army officers presently in the forces are having the same risk as women fighter pilots. it is not true. presently all the women in army are in the supporting role which means that there is no likelihood of them being captured. i dont know of a single woman who has been in the infanty or armoured corps which are actually the fighting branches which is at high risk of being captured as POW. so women in the army at present have very low chances of being POW. however a woman fighter pilot (if it becomes a reality in near future) would have to operate over enemy territory and is likely to get shot down by enemy missiles. this would result in the fighter pilot to be captured alive in enemy territory. i wouldnt like any of my sisters in that situation. i think we tend to be more bothered about being politically correct rather than being practical. the non entry of woman into some branches have nothing to do with gender inequality and more to do with being practical and sensible.

  13. Oh great! I come back from the weekend and this forum is bombarded with comments, most of them conveying agreement with Shefaly and others. Really *nice* that no one bothered to point out that good old Nish had some decent comments too. I think I am going to sulk today! 🙂

  14. This is not limited to the IAF. Most countries do allow women to enlist, but there are very few countries which put them in active combat roles, in any branch, on what traditional warfare would term as a frontline. So, it is not a fair to target just one man for that opinion.

    Secondly, at the cost of sounding like a MCP, I agree with some of the points. A standing army (again, any branch) can hardly afford to have enlisted men going on a leave for extended period of 10(+?) months. Especially given the severe shortage of officers Indian armed forces are facing, this is a highly dangerous situation. Plus, unlike ranks in Army (or possibly Navy), piloting a fighter places severe physical demands on the pilot, the stresses you can hardly expect a pregnant woman to undergo. And that has nothing to do with the debate whether women are stronger/weaker than men.

    I know that the “officer shortage” argument goes both ways, that the women officers would be one of the answers. Also, there are ways to go around the incapacity of a woman to fly during pregnancy. But looking from this angle, most of his comments hardly sound misogynistic to me, if only a bit exaggerated.

  15. This is arguably one of the best and sanest discussion I have read. Kudos to all on that. My comment from another site where this very topic has taken a male basing turn is as below :

    Empower the couple/people, they will make better choices..

    I think the solution lies in not getting gender into the mix and leaving people to figure out what they want to do. Quite a few companies, including mine, have 12 weeks of leave for the primary care giver(PCG). PCG can be a father,mother,grandparent(who gained custody for various reasons) of a newborn/adopted/foster child. It includes people thrust into PCG position because of unfortunate fatalities/complications..

    The 12 weeks can be split up as well. If the mother decides to go back to work in 6 weeks as her career demands it, the father gets to apply for a 12-6 = 6 weeks of balance from his employer. The couple can decide how they want it to work.

    While a major part of parental leave is exercised by mothers, it is good to have the option where fathers can step in if mother cannot (whatever the reasons..) or split in some way to share the burden. I took 4 weeks off for both of my tots..

    While the Vice Chief Air Marshal is a moron for his tone and lack of sensitivity, the fact of the matter is, if a pregnancy will result in 10-12 months of paid vacation (I know Canada has a 12 month policy) for the mother, it is unfair. Unless in the unfortunate incidents(death, disability etc during pregnancy) anything more than 3-4 months is being unfair….

    I want to disagree with people who claim men do not help out — let the men who talk like this take care of a baby for just a week — it is a rash generalization. Quite a few fathers do very well. Away from India very many dads(desis too) step up and do more equally as the moms. Unless we are talking of jerks and not fathers, it is a rash generalization..

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