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AIDWA to move court against Army recruitment procedure

By Our Staff Correspondent

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 22. The All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has decided to move the Supreme Court to protest against the Army's recruitment procedure that involves "intimate" physical examination of women candidates by male doctors.

Talking to presspersons here today, the AIDWA general secretary, Brinda Karat, said she had written to the Chief of the Army Staff, N.C. Vij, on September 15 but had got no response. "We will wait for another three days before filing a petition in the court for changing the rules that are embarrassing and humiliating for young girls, most of whom come from a rural background," she said. The procedure was "insensitive and callous" towards women, she added.

Also present at the press meet was Surya Moudgil from Haryana, who lost the opportunity to get a job as a Lieutenant (non-field posting) after she refused to undergo physical examination by male doctors as the surgical and gynaecological test involved "intimate" physical examination. Worse, she was "ridiculed" for being "ancient" and told that she needed to "grow up."

`In vogue for years'

Ms. Moudgil said that doctors in Allahabad, where she went for the test, made it clear that the rules could not be changed for her. The practice was being followed for the past 10 years and no woman recruit had protested.

Ms. Moudgil, who holds a post-graduate degree in Mathematics, had applied through the Service Selection Board and reached the medical examination stage after four rounds of tests. This was her fourth attempt and the second time she reached the medical examination stage.

The first time, in Bangalore, a woman doctor examined her. "I knew from experience that the gynaecological examination involved taking off my clothes and an intimate procedure. The second time, in Allahabad, I asked for a woman doctor when I realised that the examination was being carried out by male doctors."

An officer told her blankly that "the doctors only see and don't touch" and that she should not have applied if she had objections to the procedures.

`Ridicule and humiliation'

Braving "ridicule and humiliation," Ms. Moudgil came to the Army Base Hospital in Delhi for examination. She was told that only the Head of the Department was authorised to conduct the tests, and he was a male. Before seeking the medical test, she was asked to show the "application of refusal" given to her in Allahabad, which made things difficult for her.

"The fact remains that the aspirants are unaware of this until they reach the medical examination centres, and the experience is traumatising," Ms Karat said. Almost all the woman recruits who underwent the medical examination by male doctors felt "embarrassed and humiliated," Ms. Moudgil said.

"Some threw up after the examination, others went pale and many others were depressed for days, though not many found the courage to protest as they feared losing the job or bringing disrepute to their families," she added.

Nurse present: Army

An Army spokesperson, Col. S.K. Sakhuja, said that whenever a male surgeon conducts an examination, a woman nurse or attendant is present keeping in mind the sensitivities of the women aspirants.

The Army had its own constraints but whenever possible lady gynaecologists were asked to carry out examinations of women candidates.

In this particular case, according to Col. Sakhuja, the three girls who had reservations on being examined by male surgeons were asked to report in Delhi for medical examination. There, the tests were conducted on two girls in the presence of a woman nurse, while Ms. Moudgil refused even that.

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