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CHANDIGARH: Acknowledging the importance of embracing gender neutrality in all aspects of governance, the central govt will soon replace nomenclature like “ex-serviceman” with gender-neutral and gender-inclusive terms.

The Centre, in its reply submitted on Thursday before the Punjab and Haryana high court, said they “acknowledge the evolving societal landscape” and are actively engaged in efforts aimed at formulating an acceptable gender-neutral term “that not only resonates with the India subcontinent’s cultural diversity but also aligns harmoniously with international norms and practices”.

The reply was submitted in the wake of a petition filed by Captain Sukhjit Pal Kaur Sanewal (Retd) before the HC seeking directions to replace the term “ex-serviceman” with gender-neutral terms such as “ex-service members” or “ex-service personnel”. The petitioner’s main contention is that she is a woman, not a man, and thus former woman officers like herself should not be referred to as “ex-servicemen”.
On Nov 23, while issuing notice to govt in the matter, a HC division bench headed by the then acting Chief Justice, Ritu Bahri, had verbally remarked to lawyers representing govt and petitioner, additional solicitor-general Sat Pal Jain and Navdeep Singh, respectively, that the issue required urgent redressal.
Capt Sanewal (Retd), among the Army’s initial batch of short service commissioned (SSC) woman officers, has pointed out that while women were earlier part of the Army as nurses and doctors, they have been serving in other arms and services since the 1990s and now even hold command appointments. However, woman former officers continue to be referred to as “ex-serviceman” and “ex-servicemen” in government policies and schemes, she said, adding, “This sounds outdated and promotes gender stereotypes.”
The plea stated, “While much progress has been made in opening up military roles to women, the continued use of gendered language remains a significant, yet easy to remove stumbling block to a more inclusive environment in the defence services.” Capt Sanewal has also submitted that gender equality is not just about employing more women but understanding how gender operates at various levels, including using gender-inclusive language. Her petition also lists gender-inclusive terms used by various militaries and establishments globally.


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