New Delhi: In one of the rarest of rare cases in the military, a serving Navy sailor has undergone gender reassignment surgery and become a woman, prompting the maritime force to initiate action for her discharge as females cannot work in defence services as soldiers.
The matter has emerged at a time when the armed forces are grappling with complexities related to induction of women in combat roles and framing a comprehensive policy for giving females wider responsibilities in the services.
“A few months ago, this sailor decided to change his sex and turn into a woman. He came in contact with some outsiders and underwent an operation on his own, spending his own money to become a woman,” a senior Navy source told Mail Today.
Sex reassignment is a surgical procedure by which transgender persons’ physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble that socially associated with their identified gender.
The sailor, who is posted at INS Eksila base of the Navy in Visakhapatnam, now wears saris and has grown her hair out while in service.
“We have recommended her discharge from service and proceedings in this regard have been initiated and she would quit soon,” the source said. Officials in the Navy said till the time the sailor gets discharged from the force, she has been given lighter responsibilities as women cannot be employed in seafaring duties since this is not yet permitted in the force.
In May this year, the US government released from prison a former army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act.
Bradley Manning delivered hundreds of thousands of classified documents that he found troubling to WikiLeaks, and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. In 2014, Manning, who is transgender, was granted the right to be legally recognised as Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.
Sources said the Vizag sailor is attached with the office of the commanding officer of INS Eksila, which falls under the force’s eastern naval command. They added that the seaman, who is from the engineering branch of the Navy, told the authorities that he was feeling “like a woman trapped in a man’s body” and that is why he underwent the surgery.
The sailor, sources said, is satisfied with the Navy’s decision to discharge her as the rules in the force do not allow women to serve in ranks below the officer cadre.
Mail Today could not reach the lady sailor for her comments. Sources said the sailor was married before the sex change operation but more details are not available. Senior Navy sources said recruitment rules for sailors mandate that the candidate appearing for the recruitment has to be a male and, therefore, there is no issue in relieving her from service.
The Navy Act, which has rules to handle such cases, does not provide for dealing with or punishing such personnel who undergo sex change.Navy sources in Delhi said the case has also been taken up with the ministry of defence as this is an unprecedented situation.
“We have asked the government on the action to be taken by us regarding the sailor as she has spent her own money to change sex,” a Navy source said. Navy soldiers who have worked with the sailor say there is awkwardness while working with her as she had served with them shoulder to shoulder in the force.