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Sexual Assault and the Military

Updated on September 6, 2021
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MG Singh- early retired Air warrior who is PG in management and law.

The Army Ethos

The army does not have license to carry out sexual assaults. In most forces, men indulging in such acts are punished. In all forces, sexual assault whether against a civilian or a fellow servicewoman is, along with other sections of the penal code, also covered under "Acts prejudicial to good order and discipline". Such a proviso is there to all armed forces, yet it would be a fallacy to believe that these statues are a deterrent to a soldier in the heat of battle or a duty.

One is reminded of an incident when the Russian army fighting the Germans in Yugoslavia indulged in mass scale abductions and rapes in the villages. At that time the Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito complained to the Russian leader Josef Stalin about this conduct of Russian troops. Stalin a pragmatist as ever as ever replied, that it was not a serious matter as a soldier fighting for his life must be allowed to "fool" around with a few young girls.

The conduct of the Imperial army and comfort women and the German advance into Russia and capture of Russian girls is well known and need not be recounted now.In fact, right through the pages of history, this is a common phenomenon. The warrior Taimur when he sacked Delhi in 1398 took with him 200 Hindu girls for his harem. This is something that is an ongoing picture. In the US civil war, there were comfort women and the British and Indian Mogul army marched in India with a retinue of camp followers, yet that was not an insurance against the abduction of women during the course of a campaign.

The Modern Age

Recently ( just about a few decades back) women have been inducted into the armed forces. Many wear the uniform and many works as civilians along with uniformed men. One would assume that with the 21st century having dawned, sexual assault against women would go down. This is not the case and in the US state of Hawaii, the US army has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars as compensation to women who claimed they had been sexually assaulted during the course of duty. Individual cases and names have no meaning, but suffice that assaults of a sexual nature are extremely prevalent and the army accepts it. Otherwise, they would not have agreed to pay compensation. In this respect, the US army is at least paying compensation but most other forces pay no compensation.

I do recollect a case when I was in service when medical orderly accompanying a woman doctor for a case at night sexually assaulted the lady doctor, an officer. The case could not be proved and the military court gave a very lenient sentence to the soldier. Cases of rape against civilians rarely get proved, especially in case, they are committed during a firefight. In that respect, the modern age has not changed from the medieval and ancient times.

There is, however, a difference as the top echelons of the modern military leadership do make an attempt to curtail such acts and in the case of US army also pay compensation

Grappling with the Problem

With the induction of women in greater numbers into the ranks of the armed forces, a different form of exploitation has come to light. In the command and control system in the military, a superior has control over his subordinate. This leads to a situation where a female junior in uniform is to obey her superior. This has in many cases led to sexual assaults and exploitation and many keep quiet as they are enmeshed by military discipline. In many cases, younger women have developed liaisons with older officers ( some of them double their age)with disastrous consequences.

The army in India has reported many cases of young girl officers getting into a sexual liaison with older officers, leading to either a breakup of the family life of the officer or in extreme cases suicide by the younger girl officer at her lack of achieving the culmination of a relationship, namely marriage.

This is a situation in almost all armed forces and in the US army 2 senior generals had to be disciplined for extramarital sex relations. One of them General David Haight was demoted from Major General to Lt Colonel.

Last word

Right from the times of Alexander, the middle ages and the modern age the attraction of a woman for a soldier has not waned. There is a difference from civil cases as in this case the soldier has power on his side. In some cases he also receives protection and this cannot be denied. One cannot see how this phenomenon can be done away with. But the army top leadership does appear to be aware of the problem and that is a good thing and means the battle is on the right lines.



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