Navy decides to set up women-friendly facilities on its fleet

INS Kozhikode,

Kochi: The Indian Navy said it has decided to set up women-friendly facilities on its indigenously-built aircraft carrier and other bigger ships amid demands for induction of women officers and sailors on warships.

Vice-Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding- in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, said the first indigenously-built aircraft carrier Vikrant would be women- friendly.

His statement comes a day after Sub-Lieutenant Shivangi became its first naval woman pilot to join operational duties in the presence of top officials at its base here.

Fulfilling her long-cherished dream, she received her 'qualification wings' from the Vice-Admiral on Monday.

Addressing a press conference on board INS Tir at South Jetty, naval base, here, on the eve of Navy Day on December 4, the Vice-Admiral said, "We've already started incorporating women-friendly facilities on the aircraft carrier and other bigger ships."

"In the combat branch, which is basically on warships and submarines and the aircraft that goes to sea, there are certain requirements.

There are logistic issues being sorted out.

We need separate accommodation for women, separate toilets and other such facilities for them," he said responding to queries on a delay in deployment of women on warships.

Asked whether Vikrant being built in Cochin Shipyard Limited would have women-friendly facilities, the Vice-Admiral said, "Yes".

"In the aircraft carrier and the bigger ships we have already started incorporating these facilities. wherein certain number of bunks, and areas are earmarked. Separate toilet facilities that are essentially for the requirement of privacy and personal security, that has been created," the Commanding-in-chief said.

Speaking about the roadmap being prepared by the Navy for induction of women, Vice Admiral Chawla said it envisages the induction of women on ships in a measured manner and as officers first only.

"We have not yet come to a stage thinking of we have women sailors to also join the Navy", he said.

"From our experience we have learnt that just a token presence of one lady officer on a ship does not really imply much. There has to be a minimum critical mass number of people for it to be successful. There is a lot of research, lot of studies being done on it. I think we should do it in a very measured and deliberate manner. We are very eager to have women onboard ships," he said.

The Commanding-in-chief said historically the percentage of women in Navies in particular and in the armed forces in general has been not beyond 15 per cent on a voluntary basis.

He said, "When we open up the avenue of induction of women as we have done now on short service, there is no discrimination of any sort between men and women".

"Nobody is given any extra benefit because of gender issues. It is purely on the basis of equality and because of that historically, even the most advanced Navies, to my mind about 15 per cent, is the limit. Normally about 5 to 7 per cent is the average figure. And I am sure that we will exceed that," he said.

Vice Admiral Chawla said the experience of having lady officers women officers in the Indian Navy has been capable and extremely good over the last 27 years since 1992.

"We would really welcome more of them to join but it should be done in a progressive and in a measured manner" to avoid any sort of setbacks," he said. The Vice-Admiral said legal and other issues also needed to be sorted out before putting women on combat duty.

The appeal in the regard was pending in the Supreme Court.

"It is up to the apex court to decide," he added.

The Vice Admiral said the indigenously built aircraft carrier, Vikrant, would be put to sea next year after the ship completes its trials.

The ship should be commissioned in 2021 as was planned, he said.