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New Army service rule bars women from combat duties

Military analysts have said women will not get a chance to serve as the chief of the NA as long as such a provision in the Army Service Rule remains

KATHMANDU, FEB 23 - The new Nepal Army regulations recently introduced by the government have banned female soldiers from taking up direct combat responsibilities and fighting in the frontlines of war.

Military analysts have said women will not get a chance to serve as the chief of the NA as long as such a provision in the Army Service Rule remains.

"Military personnel will lack field experience and a feeling of sacrifice until and unless they take up combat duties," NA's retired Maj Gen Shivaram Pradhan told the Post. "Hence, soldiers with experience of only combat related duties can never be elevated to the post of the army chief."

The new rule comes at a time when countries in the West have removed a ban on female soldiers from taking up combat roles. Last month, the US military lifted the 1994 ban that prevented female soldiers from taking up combat roles. The US government said that anyone qualified should get a chance to fight in the frontlines of battles regardless of sex.

According to the new rule, women soldiers cannot serve in units, including the infantry, special forces, engineers, air defence, artillery and air defense, which execute direct command duties.

NA Spokesperson Suresh Sharma said there is, however, no bar on women soldiers being sent to wings like the intelligence, headquarters, signals and operations.

"We have applied the policy of positive discrimination to ease the service for female soldiers in the Army," Sharma said. He added that most of the militaries around the world don't have a provision of giving direct combat duties to female soldiers.

While Britain's armed forces don't allow female personnel to take up direct combat roles, countries like Germany, Australia and Canada have already introduced the provision.

Pradhan said it has only been a few years since Nepal Army started recruiting women soldiers in the infantry, and as such, priority should be given to setting up facilities that are friendly to women soldiers and increasing their number in the institution.

The NA started recruiting females in 1962. However there were only 1,712 women in the 93,000-strong institution last year. The initial recruitment of women in the Army was for nursing and medical units. They were later recruited in the infantry in 2003.

Three of the five women who reached the rank of brigadier general so far have retired, while two are still in the Army's medical unit. In the infantry, the highest rank held by a woman is that of the captain, while 309 women hold officers' positions in the NA.

The Army maintains that its long term plan is to ensure five percent women representation in the institution. The new rule states that of the reserved 45 percent seats that will be filled through the inclusive quota, 20 percent will be allocated to women.

Posted on: 2013-02-23 04:00