Remembering our heroines

By Cluttered Denouncer

Yesterday, I was surfing through the TV channels when I saw a song sung by the girl who won Derana Dream Star II. My cousin, who was dozing off on a chair nearby, said the song was her first since winning and that it was about soldiers and I listened.

 It did talk about soldiers, addressing them as brothers and fathers and I wondered… “Why female soldiers weren’t included???”  Is it because when you compare the death toll, the male count is higher than the female? Or is it because that the word -‘soldier’ denotes men, that the lyricist thought it unnecessary to mention female soldiers???

 Well, the video of the said song included images of handing over of houses to soldiers and their families. There is the mother and the wife and the child of a soldier who died in the battlefield and the singer hands over the keys to their new home.

But no female soldiers are present.  What about the parents and husbands and children of female soldiers? Is it so easy to forget the women at war? Do they want to give the idea that Lance Corporal M. Rupawathi, the first female soldier to die at war in Sri Lanka, is not considered along with her male colleagues?

 It’s not that we women have our mark in history as soldiers - 800,000 women served in the Red Army in World War II alone.  Russia has a long tradition of sending women to war, such as the Sniper Super Star Lyudmila Pavlichenko, one of history’s greatest snipers, who was personally involved in killing three hundred Nazis in less than a year. The adopted daughter of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkey, Sabiha Gökçen, became the first female combat pilot way back in 1937.

 In the United States and Australia armed forces are now around 15% for women. Canada, with their strong favour for women in the military in terms of combat-related roles, opened the doors to women in 1982, while Danish women have been serving in the armed forces since 1934! In Eritrea, there is a compulsory year and a half of military service for both men and women. In the Eritrean-Ethiopian War (1998-2000) a quarter of the Eritrean army were women.

 Women have been accepted into the Sri Lankan Air Force since 1972, and the Army since 1979, with a few restrictions on direct combat roles. The Tamil Tigers, of course, had their own women.  Five hundred women are selected every year to volunteer for the Finnish Army, and adding up to about 35,000 active personnel all together. India sent the first all-female UN peacekeeping force to Liberia in 2007.

 Many EU countries are open for female soldiers but Spain has more women serving in the Army than any other country in the EU.  In Libya, as is well known, Colonel Gadaffi, has an elite bodyguard of women known alternatively as “the Amazonian Guard” or “the Revolutionary Nuns”. Nepal’s army is about 5% female, but during the Maoist insurgency the Communist Army was about a third female, and the Communists are still arguing for more women in the military.

 Women can serve in any military role in New Zealand but there’s barely 9,000 people overall in the New Zealand defence forces.   Perhaps --perhaps-- it made sense to rule out women when warfare was a bunch of guys with swords charging into each other but not since the arrival of repeating rifles and automatic weapons.

A rifle is a rifle, whether a man carries it or a woman. And I think it’s time we give equal credit to ALL the war heroines and heroes.

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