HOMOSEXUALITY IN DEFENCE FORCES
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning/queer, asexual, non-binary and pansexual (LGBTIQA+) people have always served in militaries and military organisations; leaders have managed the presence of sexual gender minorities in the ranks in complicated ways that were influenced by regulation, military culture, social and cultural norms, and perceptions of military effectiveness.
The history of LGBTIQA+ soldiers in modern western military history reveals important ways that various military organisations have addressed the question and challenges of open service by lgbt people. While many states have incorporated such people into their organisations, it is not the case globally, and policies continue to change. This essay explores various aspects of LGBTIQA+ military history in Europe, the United States, and Israel and examines themes including the importance of comparative history; the differences between de jure and de facto integration; the effects of both regulation and culture on their inclusion; and the experience of such people in uniform.
Soldiers (and sailors, and airmen, and marines) certainly have sex, even if is described in its simplest form. It is doubtful that soldiers would be celibate. Soldiers are attracted, romantically and sexually, to other people. Soldiers fall in love and get into relationships. Soldiers have ideas about masculinity and femininity; they sometimes conform and obey and sometimes rebel against rules and norms.
Military organisations represent that forceful arm of the state and are intended to fight and win wars, so they operate under imperatives of effectiveness and readiness. But they are also social organisations, and they often reflect (and sometimes shape) the social and cultural landscape of the societies from which they are drawn. Law, policy, and regulation do not always match culture, implicit expectations, and social norms. Questions about how to manage sex and sexuality in a military force are not new. Militaries across time and space have confronted these challenges: how and to what extent should sexual, romantic, and platonic relationships between consenting adults within the force and between soldiers and civilians be managed? Does someone’s sexual behaviour, attraction, or identity affect their suitability to serve in uniform? Does it affect unit cohesion, morale, or discipline? What is the relationship between sex characteristics, gender, and military service?
But even defining the landscape is difficult – what histories count as LGBTIQA+ military history at all? The search for an umbrella term, to unite various minoritised and marginalised groups related to sex and gender under a single identifier, has been important, but fraught with questions of inclusion and exclusion. In military contexts, the distinction between LGB history and other histories remains important, as the treatment of sexuality and sexual orientation is often distinct from considerations related to gender identity and gender expression. Yet, time is inclining the two into a merge.
In keeping with the times, the term 'Homosexual' has lost its original ignominious meaning, which had forced its proponents to stay behind the curtain on pain of severe trauma, both mental and physical. Today, the term is LGBTIQA+ for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/ questioning, asexual, non-binary and pansexual. I will use either the short acronym LGBT or simply homosexuals sans any unwarranted connotations.
Fear of discrimination may prevent military service members to be open about their sexual orientation. In 1993, a study had showed that in Canada, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and Norway, the number of openly homosexual service members was small, usually representing only a minority of serving homosexuals. Serving openly may make their service less pleasant or impede their careers, even though there were no explicit limitations to serve. Thus service members who acknowledged their homosexuality were "appropriately" circumspect in their behaviour while in military situations; i.e. they did not call attention to themselves.
A 2004 report stated that in some cases, in Belgium, homosexual personnel have been transferred from their unit if they have been "too open with their sexuality." As of 2004, the Belgian military reserved the right to deny gay and lesbian personnel high-level security clearances, for fear they may be susceptible to blackmail.Today, in the Danish army, LGBT military personnel refrain from being completely open about their homosexuality. Until training is completed and a solid employment is fixed they fear losing respect, authority and privileges, or, in worse cases, their job in the Danish army. In 2010, the same updated study showed that in Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy and United Kingdom, no special treatment to prevent discrimination was in place in those armies. The issue is not specifically addressed, it is left to leadership discretion. Commanders said that sexual harassment of women by men poses a far greater threat to unit performance than anything related to sexual orientation.
On the other hand, the Dutch military directly addressed the issue of enduring discrimination, by forming the Homosexuality and Armed Forces Foundation, a trade union that continues to represent gay and lesbian personnel to the ministry of defense, for a more tolerant military culture. Although homosexuals in the Dutch military rarely experience any explicitly aggressive acts against them, signs of homophobia and cultural insensitivity are still present.
Several academics have written on the effects on employees in non-military contexts concealing their sexual orientation in the workplace. Writers on military psychology have linked this work to the experiences of LGBQ military service personnel, asserting that these studies offer insights into the lives of open LGBQ soldiers and those who conceal their orientation. Sexual orientation concealment and sexual orientation linked harassment are stressors for LGBT individuals that lead to negative experiences and deleterious job-related outcomes. Specifically, non-open LGBT persons are found to experience social isolation. In particular, these products of work related stress can affect military job performance, due to the high reliance on connection and support for the well-being of all service members.
The issue of allowing homosexuals in the military has been a major point of contention for those in the armed forces. For some, working with a homosexual will make them feel uncomfortable while for others it is just alright to have homosexuals. Here we will look at some of the issues confronting the so-called umbrella "third sex" or the LGBT clan as they desire to join the ranks of the military.
Those against having homosexuals in the military believe that the agency will lose its cohesiveness. The life of a soldier is intimate and they do everything together, so for a homosexual, this can be an intimidating experience working with other people who might take advantage of the situation. Likewise, having homosexuals can disrupt the discipline and good morale of the military.
In addition, soldiers of similar sexual proclivities who are involved with each other romantically can affect their social and emotional membership in the unit. Their object of obsession is each other and their relationship that they would forget to fulfill their responsibilities to the group. Their devotion to one another will violate the loyalty they pledge to the Army and their co-soldiers.
Aside from that, those against the move to allow LGBT in the armed forces believe that the military is not like the civil service that offers equal opportunity for all. As far as selection and recruitment, the armed forces are exempted from this principle of providing similar opportunities. The rationale behind the establishment of the institution is to protect the country.
On the other hand, those who are pro LGBT in the military believe that there is a historical basis for allowing them to enter the institution. Likewise, they contend that the military can benefit from the creative minds of homosexuals as far as logistics, strategies, and intelligence is concerned.
Proponents of the move believe that there should be no gender preference when recruiting and selecting potential members of the military. This is an effective solution to control the decreasing number of applicants joining the military. Without the gender preference, the military could expand its recruitment base.
Another contention of those who agree to have LGBT in the armed forces is because recruitment for the military should be based on qualifications, abilities, skills, and characteristics and not gender. Just because an individual is gay does not mean that they do not possess the necessary skills to perform assigned tasks. So gender should not be an issue in recruitment and selection.
The military should not question the gender of an individual instead they should work on improving the selection process in order to truly determine who can really dedicate their lives for the protection of their state and its people. Loyalty, patriotism, and other requirements needed for the service of the country could not only be fulfilled by males so gender should never be an issue.
A person of authority and rank should not be allowed to take advantage of their LGBT members just because of their sexual orientation. The institution is a test of stamina as well as one's physical, emotional, and mental skills. As long as an individual, regardless of gender, can fulfill these requirements then there is nothing wrong with having homosexuals in the military.
THE MODERN APPROACH
Understanding acceptance and rejection of LGBT people lies at the heart of understanding violence, discrimination, and the multitude of negative consequences arising from exclusion and unfair treatment. Sexual and gender minorities all over the world are heavily impacted by the attitudes and beliefs of those around them. Low levels of acceptance are tied to bullying and violence, physical and mental health problems, discrimination in employment, and under-representation in positions of leadership.
Updates to the Global Acceptance Index (GAI). Using an advanced statistical model, a study updated the GAI to measure acceptance in 175 countries and geographic locations. Acceptance is the extent to which LGBT people are seen in ways that are positive and inclusive, both with respect to an individual’s opinions about LGBT people and with regard to an individual’s position on LGBT policies. Updates included an expanded database of social surveys that measure attitudes toward LGBT people and rights (drawing upon data from AfroBarometer, America’s Barometer, Eurobarometer, European Social Survey, European Values Survey, Gallup World Poll, International Social Survey Programme, Ipsos International, Latinobarómetro, Pew Global surveys, and World Values Surveys); the addition of surveys collecting information pertaining specifically to transgender people, intersex people and rights related to transgender and intersex people; and, left unsaid, modifications to the estimation process to increase estimation accuracy.
Continued Polarisation: Globally, the average level of acceptance has increased since 1980.
- 56 of 175 countries and locations experienced increases in acceptance since 1980.
- 57 countries and locations experienced a decline.
- 62 countries and locations experienced no change.
- Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States have all increased their acceptance of LGBTIQA+ people and rights.
- In 2020, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada were the most accepting countries.
- Countries in Australia and Oceania, North and South America, and Western Europe have had positive changes in their GAI scores since 1990.
Trends in the GAI in other regions have either not changed over this timeframe or trended slightly downward.
In the past decade, the range of levels of acceptance has increased. Levels of acceptance have become less polarised, yet:
- The most accepting countries have experienced increased levels of acceptance.
- The least accepting countries have experienced decreased levels of acceptance.
- Levels of acceptance in countries near the global average have stayed relatively stable, though stable attitudes are also present for countries that have long been more accepting and less accepting.
- Peru, Mozambique, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Palestine each had very little change in acceptance between 2010 and 2020.
LGBT personnel are able to serve in the armed forces of some countries around the world: the vast majority of industrialised, Western countries including some South American countries such as Argentina and Chile in addition to South Africa, and Israel. The rights concerning intersex people are more vague.
This keeps pace with the latest global figures on acceptance of homosexuality, which suggest that acceptance of LGBT communities is becoming more widespread only in secular, affluent countries. However, an accepting policy toward gay and lesbian soldiers does not invariably guarantee that LGBT citizens are immune to discrimination in that particular society. Even in countries where LGBT persons are free to serve in the military, activists lament that there remains room for improvement. Israel, for example, a country that otherwise struggles to implement LGBTpositive social policy, nevertheless has a military well known for its broad acceptance of openly gay soldiers.
History has seen societies that both embrace and shun openly gay service-members in the military. But more recently, the high-profile 2010 hearings on "Don't ask, don't tell" in the United States propelled the issue to the centre of international attention. They also shed light both on the routine discrimination, violence, and hardship faced by LGBTIQA+ identified soldiers, as well as arguments for and against a ban on their service.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the byname for the former official U.S. policy (1993–2011) regarding the service of homosexuals in the military was coined after Clinton signed a law (consisting of statute, regulations, and policy memoranda) in 1993 directing that military personnel “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, and don’t harass.” When it went into effect on October 1, 1993, the policy theoretically lifted a ban on homosexual service that had been instituted during World War II, though in effect it continued a statutory ban. In December 2010 both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to repeal the policy. The policy officially ended on September 20, 2011.
In the United States, LGBQ soldiers are not required to disclose their sexual orientation, suggesting that some LGBQ service members may continue to conceal their sexual orientation. Studies suggest this could have harmful effects for the individual. A 2013 study conducted at the University of Montana found that non-open LGBT US veterans face significantly higher rates of depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and alcohol or other substance abuse than their heterosexual counterparts. These veterans also reported facing significant challenges serving while concealing their sexual orientation; 69.3% of subjects in the study reported experiencing fear or anxiety as a result of concealing their sexual identity, and 60.5% reported that those experiences led to a more difficult time for the respondent than heterosexual colleagues. This study also concludes that 14.7% of LGBT American veterans made serious attempts at suicide. This rate of suicide attempts compares to another study of the entire American veteran community that found .0003% of American veterans attempt suicide.
Why Current Policies on Sexual Orientation and Military Service Should Be Repealed
Military success does not depend on service members’ sexual orientation. The USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, and Australia, allow openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons to serve in the military, and this has no adverse effect on military readiness or discipline. In contrast to the 24 countries around the globe that officially welcome gay, lesbian, and bisexual military service members, the U.S. is now in the minority, even in NATO, where only Turkey and Greece have similar prohibition policies.
Some openly gay or lesbian service members have served in the U.S. military with no ill effects. In fact, a stop-loss policy during the Persian Gulf War prevented discharges for homosexuality, strongly suggesting that the U.S. military believed that service by openly gay or lesbian people during wartime was no threat to military effectiveness. Most experts believe that military effectiveness is related to military service members’ shared commitment to a common goal that motivates them to work together to achieve the goal. Leadership of the group is also considered crucial. Sexual orientation is irrelevant to task cohesion, the only type of cohesion that critically predicts the team’s military readiness and success.
The policy is costly. No useful purpose is served by spending millions of dollars each year to investigate and discharge qualified and patriotic Americans who wish to serve their country. Since the U.S. DADT policy in 1993, about 12,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual military personnel have been involuntarily discharged solely because of their sexual orientation, at least 8% of whom had mission-critical skills. In a 2005 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, implementing the DADT policy was estimated to cost U.S. taxpayers at least 200 million dollars. However, a 2006 Blue Ribbon Commission that included former Secretary of Defense, William Perry, corrected several calculation errors in this estimate and concluded that the financial cost associated with the DADT policy implementation was much higher than previously estimated, i.e. at least $364 million during its first decade.
Repealing the policy would improve mental health in the military. The military can be a highly stressful environment, especially in wartime. It is important to encourage military personnel to seek mental health services when appropriate in order to promote their well-being and effectiveness. The DADT policy, however, works against effective mental health access for gay, lesbian and bisexual military personnel for at least three reasons. First, workplaces that are not supportive of non-heterosexual orientations are strongly correlated with stress and depression. Second, since disclosure of sexual orientation is officially prohibited, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members are liable to avoid accessing mental health services when they need them. Third, it is reasonable to assume that forced secrecy and the fear of being exposed as gay, lesbian or bisexual are likely to disproportionally increase anxiety and disrupt optimal performance.
Women and young service members are harmed disproportionally by the policy. Armed forces personnel between 18 and 25 of age, as well as women, are discharged at much higher rates than their respective percentages in the Military. In 2005, 30% of all persons discharged as a result of the DADT policy were women, despite the fact that only 14% of military staff is female (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, 2004). During the year of 2002, 83% of all DADT-related dismissals by the Air Force affected service members below 25 years old, although the staff percentages of this young age group amount to only 35% (Service-members Legal Defense Network, 2003).
Why Repealing the Policy Is Unlikely to Pose a Problem for the US Military
Knowing lesbian, gay or bisexual service members is linked to reduced prejudice toward them. Consistent with a long-standing body of social psychology research based on a contact hypothesis, scientists have repeatedly found evidence for reduced prejudice levels toward gay, lesbian or bisexual people among heterosexuals who are acquainted with openly gay, lesbian or bisexual members of society. The authors of a comprehensive recent meta-analysis of the last six decades of research in this area demonstrate that the correlation of contact between heterosexuals and gay and lesbian persons with lower levels of sexual prejudice is significantly higher than prejudice reduction linked to contact with any other target group, e.g., differing in race or age.
This is reflected in a representative recent survey of military personnel, in which 23% of respondents stated they were certain they worked with a gay or lesbian individual in their military unit. Out of these, 64% reported no adverse consequences for their military unit’s morale and 66% stated that their personal morale was not affected in any way either.
The majority of people in the public, and in the Military, support gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the military. Public opinion polls in recent years have consistently shown that two-thirds of the public, on average, believe that gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members should be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military (CNN, 2007). The percentage of military service members strongly opposed to allowing gay and lesbian persons serve in the military has declined considerably over the last decade, with only 5% of personnel in the military in a 2006 poll stating that they are “very uncomfortable” interacting with gay and lesbian persons in the military, contrasted with 73% who were somewhat or very comfortable in this regard. In 2007, 28 retired generals and admirals issued a letter to Congress, requesting the repeal of the DADT policy, and this perspective was also shared by the then Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.
The U.S. military is capable of successfully implementing a change of this sort. The military has proved itself willing, able, and effective in attacking prejudice and stereotypes within its ranks based on race and gender. This experience can and should inform efforts to eliminate barriers based on sexual orientation. Likewise, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) do not discriminate against gay, lesbian or bisexual persons. The experience of these federal agencies and of those American police and fire departments that hire lesbian, bisexual, and gay officers can be drawn upon in implementing the change.
Homosexuality In The Indian Armed Forces
The Supreme Court of India has been hearing a batch of petitions seeking the legalisation of same-sex marriages, the next corrective measure in India’s progress towards decriminalisation of homosexuality.
The Chief Justice of India, heading a five-judge bench, questioned the need for being of binary gender for marriage and asserted that same-sex relationships are "not just physical” but also had stable, “emotional” factors involved. The apex court also observed that the very notion of a man and a woman is not “an absolute, based on genitals.” The petitioners say that the court should grant marriage equality to gay couples not as “same-sex” but as a right for consenting adults across "bodily gender and sex spectrum".
In early November 2023, four Army personnel were shot dead in their sleep at the Bathinda military station in Punjab by a fellow colleague, who initially concocted a story about seeing two men with guns to confuse investigators. The Punjab Police eventually arrested the man, an Indian Army soldier, identified as Gunner Desai Mohan. Later, reports surfaced that said Mohan shot his fellow soldiers after they harassed him and sodomised him.
Is Homosexuality Legal In Indian Armed Forces?
Despite the Supreme Court’s judgment in 2018 striking down a part of Section 377 and decriminalising homosexual activity, homosexuality continues to be considered an offence in the Indian armed forces. “LGBT issues are not acceptable in the army,” said a former Army chief, but hotly disputed.
Last year, the Ministry of Defence rejected a film directed by National Award winner Onir, inspired by the real-life story of an ex-Indian Army officer who had come out openly as gay. The filmmaker took to social media saying that the ministry had rejected his script for the movie as it showed the Army in a “bad light”.
What Rules Apply To Gay Sex In The Indian Military?
More than four years after the decriminalisation of gay sex, it is still not applicable to the three arms of the Indian military. According to Section 45 of the Army Act, 1950, any act “with a manner unbecoming” of an officer’s position and the “character expected of him” can result in him being recalled from service.
Meanwhile, Section 46 (a) states any person guilty of forms of disgraceful conduct of “a cruel, indecent or unnatural kind” will face up to seven years in jail upon conviction by court-martial. Section 63 of the Army Act, 1950, on the other hand, pertains to actions considered “prejudicial to good order and military discipline”, although it is not specified. These are the legal provisions that can be used to prosecute gay sex in the military.
The Indian Constitution states that any law which is inconsistent with Part III of the Indian Constitution shall be void. Therefore, prima facie, the Indian army’s exclusionary policy may be declared void since it offends various fundamental rights of homosexuals. However, as a unique feature of the Indian Constitution, Article 33 allows the Parliament to restrict and abrogate the fundamental rights in their application to members of armed forces to ensure proper discharge of their duties and maintenance of discipline among them (emphasis applied). Therefore, exclusion of homosexuals may very well be justified if there are cogent reasons that their presence frustrates these twin objectives.
A situation may possibly arise where a soldier refuses to obey the command of his superior with homosexual orientation. Based on this fear, until 2014, women were denied combat roles in the Indian army believing that soldiers would be unwilling to take orders from a female. However, experience has taught us an altogether different lesson. For example, operation Desert Storm was successfully headed by an African American without any problem in the system of rank and command. We have also seen female soldiers in Indian forces who have broken these conventional notions and have risen to the top. Therefore, such fears only deprive the Indian army of competent and qualified officers.
Assignment & Worldwide Deployment: The exclusion may be justified on the ground that army requires foreign operations in countries which may not be so welcoming of homosexual soldiers. Therefore, it would create problems in global deployment and more so in joint operations. This fear of reaction from other countries would mean that we must exclude Jewish soldiers from army because they might be deployed in Saudi Arabia or exclude dark skinned soldiers from deployment in countries hostile to people of colour. It is also pertinent to note that in 2014, there were 26 countries that allowed homosexuals to openly serve in their military. Therefore, such a selective justification cannot stand the scrutiny of reasons.
To accommodate the privacy of heterosexuals presumably means, for example to keep their naked bodies safe in the showers from the stares of homosexuals who wish to peek at naked bodies, but they might do so quite as readily when their orientation is a secret as when it is open. The only difference will be that heterosexuals will not know which of their service-mates are homosexuals and heterosexuals will have reason to have a generalised suspicion of everyone in the showers, hardly a circumstance likely to increase ‘cohesion’”.
Breach of Security: It may be argued that homosexuals are likely targets for blackmail by enemy agents who might threaten to expose their sexual orientation. An open policy on the other hand will subvert such fears. However, a study conducted by U.S. Navy in 1957 concluded that homosexuals do not pose a greater security risk than heterosexuals. Therefore, by preventing lesbian and gay soldiers from being forthright about their homosexual orientation, the military fosters the very prejudice it relies on to justify its policy.
The aforesaid justifications fail to withstand the scrutiny of reason and experience. The prejudice with which we have viewed this community has manifested in all walks of life. Nevertheless, the Indian Constitution is guided by its own text rather than the perceptions of society, even it be a majority view. An orientation which was once treated as a curse was recognised as an indispensable part of our society by the SC. The Indian army may regard itself conventional, however, conventional outlook can never mean unfounded prejudice. The demand is for a fair chance and equality of opportunity. The Indian army has a robust mechanism to enlist recruits and an equally strict code to regulate their in-service conduct. There is no problem in subjecting homosexual soldiers to the same rigors. The problem, however, lies in altogether denying the chance. The change, therefore, should come from within. The Indian army’s aim of modernisation should not only be restricted to weapons but should also extend to its outlook and perceptions.