in his office and told my panty is visible on every dress whether uniform, formals or PT dress. He kept asking me to change the pattern of panty I wear. I got embarrassed.”
After being sexually harassed for nearly six months, the officer finally decided to raise her voice and sent a detailed complaint to Brigade Commander of 3 Signal Group, Southwestern Command headquarters in Pune on August 13.
In her handwritten complaint to the headquarters, she has narrated nearly 10 instances of sexual harassment. Sadly, the army authorities waited for almost two months before they reacted to her complaint.
Unable to find any solution to her complaint, lady officer on 26 September wrote the Army Chief General Dalbir Singh. “I am approaching you bypassing all channels for redressal of my grievances because an earlier attempt to do the same through proper channel has failed to provide me justice on complaint,” she wrote . Subsequently, on October 1, a committee presided by a Major-rank female officer was formed to look into her complaints. “Committee has heard the complaint and has opined that necessary action as per provision of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act 2013) be initiated against the Colonel. It is requested that necessary steps be initiated for deposition of Colonel before the Committee,” Major Vandana Shukla, Presiding Officer of the Committee, wrote to the Alwar Military Station headquarters on October 2.
“I am the proud father of an Army Officer who marched down the Rajpath this year to showcase ‘woman power’. I am absolutely disappointed today and the reason is that my daughter was sexually harassed by her Commanding Officer and she complained to the higher-ups. In the name of taking action, the higher officials gave him (the erring colonel) a plum posting. Now my little child is trying her best to not let her head drop or shoulders droop,” the father wrote in the letter sent last week.
Stating that his daughter’s complaint has finally come to the internal committee, he said, “But the reason I am writing to you is not about the sexual harassment alone but the way it was handled by the senior officials who had the rank of Brigadier and Major General.” As per the law, the authorities are suppose to set up a committee within 48 hours of a sexual harassment complaint being filed. The army took nearly two months to form such a committee.
This incident and the letter of the officer’s father comes at a time when the government is considering giving combat roles to female officers in the armed forces. Only last week, the Indian Air Force chief has made an announcement that the force will soon have women fighter pilots. But it seems women in the armed forces are yet to get their basic rights.