WOMEN IN THE SRI LANKA ARMY
Sri Lanka female soldiers
Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) was the first service of the Sri Lankan military to allow women to serve, accepting female recruits to the Sri Lanka Volunteer Air Force in 1972. The Sri Lanka Army followed in 1979 with the establishment of the Sri Lanka Army Women's Corps (SLAWC). Since then, each service has for both administrative and practical reasons maintained separate units for women. These are the SLAWC and the SLAF Women's Wing; the Sri Lanka Navy does not have a specific name for women's units. In order to maintain discipline, all three services have women MPs attached to their respective military police/provost corps.
Currently, female personnel of all three services play an active part in ongoing operations. However, there are certain limitations in 'direct combat' duties such asspecial forces, pilot branch, naval fast attack squadrons. These are only a few restrictions; female personnel have been tasked with many front line duties and attached to combat units such as paratroops, SLAF Regiment, as well as undertaken support services such as control tower operators, electronic warfare technicians, radio material teletypewriters, automotive mechanics, aviation supply personnel, cryptographers, doctors, combat medics, lawyers, engineers and aerial photographers. In the Sri Lanka Navy female personnel were at first limited to the medical branch, however currently both lady officers and female rates are able to join any branch of service including the executive branch. With the escalation of the Sri Lankan civil war, many female personnel have come under enemy fire both directly and indirectly thus taking many casualties including fatalities. As of 2008 there were three female officers of the rank of Major General and one Commodore.
The Sri Lanka Civil Defence Force, formerly the Sri Lanka Home Guard, has been open to women recruits since 1988. In 1993, these guardswomen were issued firearms and deployed to protect their home towns and villages against attacks by LTTE. As a result, there have been many casualties (including fatalities) from attacks.
The Corps was set up with the assistance of the Women's Royal Army Corps, it was identical in structure to its parent organization, and its first generation of officer cadets was trained in Britain. Candidates were required to be between eighteen and twenty years old and to have passed the General Common Entrance (Ordinary level) examinations, while the Officer candidates must have passed the Advanced Level. Enlistment entailed a five-year service commitment (the same as for men), and recruits were not allowed to marry during this period. In the sixteen-week training course at the Army Training Center at the Diyatalawa Sri Lanka Military Academy, cadets were put through a program of drill and physical training similar to the men's program, with the exception of weapons and battle craft training. Female recruits were paid according to the same scale as the men, but were limited to service in nursing, communications, and clerical work. In late 1987, the first class of women graduates from the Viyanini Army Training Center were certified to serve as army instructors. But, from late 1987 - after hostilities began, the first batch of women graduates from the British Army's Women's Corp Center certified to serve as Army Instructors.
Up to now, women officers have proved their ability and serve in varied specialized fields in the Service as control tower operators, electronic warfare technicians, radio material teletypists, automotive mechanics, aviation supply personnel, cryptographers, doctors, combat medic, lawyers, engineers and even aerial photographers.
To meet the operational requirements in the field areas, the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Women's Corps was also raised. A few officers from the regular counter part were attached to this unit to organize the command structure. They are currently employed in active combat duties in the northern and eastern parts of the island.
Many officers commencing with Lieutenant Colonel A.W. Thambiraja were appointed to command this unit from time to time. The first women's corps officer to command the unit was Lieutenant Colonel Kumudini Weerasekara in 1992