Indian Navy may get away with sacking sailor Sabi Giri for undergoing sex surgery, but why resist women serving in all roles

On Monday, the Indian Navy discharged a sailor for breaching recruitment conditions and undergoing a gender-reassignment procedure. Sabi Girl (who earlier used to go by the name Manish Giri) underwent the procedure in October 2016. The Indian Navy stated that post this procedure her service was no longer required. To quote the official statement from the navy:

"He chose to undergo irreversible gender re-assignment on his own accord, wilfully altering his gender status from the one he was recruited for at the time of his induction. He has, therefore, breached recruitment regulations and eligibility criteria for employment as a sailor in the Indian Navy."

 Indian Navy may get away with sacking sailor Sabi Giri for undergoing sex surgery, but why resist women serving in all roles

File image of Sabi Giri. Image courtesy: News18

Sabi has stated that she will be seeking judicial redress against the discharge.

Giri had resumed service after the procedure and was placed in psychiatric care after a urinary tract infection compelled her to disclose her changed status. The issue brings to the spotlight the restrictions that exist on women from presently serving in all branches of the navy.

In July 2017, the Integrated Service Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence had asked all service branches to consider expanding roles for women including combat roles. Unfortunately, this reform has not been implemented yet and Giri now finds herself in a peculiar predicament.

The Indian Navy may be legally in the clear on this one though. They are permitted to discharge people whose service they no longer require and if Sabi was — post her changed gender status — in a role that women weren't ordinarily eligible for then they can legally discharge her. Further, the navy may have considered the precedent that it would have had set by allowing Sabi to continue in service. Allowing Sabi to continue would have had implicitly meant that the navy would be okay with women serving in roles that the recruitment conditions didn't permit them to serve in the maritime force.

However, this issue brings into the spotlight the larger concerns about opening up India's armed forces at all levels for women. India should consider if it still makes sense to maintain these gender restrictions. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel have already abolished such restrictions.

While the question of if people who identify as transgender can serve in the Indian Armed Forces is still an open one, in this particular case, the sailor appears to have been discriminated because of a gender-reassignment procedure. The question we should be asking is: why do the Indian armed forces still resist women serving in all roles?

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Updated Date: Oct 11, 2017 22:13:39 IST