Published On: Mon, May 4th, 2015

Retired diplomat recalls prejudices against officers

New Delhi: When retired diplomat and author Arundhati Ghose wanted to join the Indian Foreign Service in the early 1960s, she faced the same question in two separate interviews – How would she cope with her career post-marriage?

Retired diplomat and author Arundhati Ghose

Retired diplomat and author Arundhati Ghose

Years after she joined the foreign service, a circular by the then Foreign Secretary to all women in IFS warned them that “in view of a sizable number of officers having married other IFS Officers, the Administration was no longer able to accommodate requests for adjacent postings and that a serious view would be taken of any such request of the women officers for such postings,” recalls Ghose.

Ghosh says this in an article in the latest issue of the magazine “The Equator Line.”

“I was particularly offended as the circular was sent to single women officers, like me, too,” she says adding the circular was, however, withdrawn following protests.

Ghose speaks about an “outrageous” rule which required a woman IFS officer who had to take prior permission to marry and a “qualified permission” was usually given “with the proviso that the government was free to terminate her services if her private life starts to affect her work.”

These are some of the instances Ghose recalls from her life as a distinguished Indian career diplomat to drive home the prejudices against women that run deep-rooted in society.

Another instance cited by Ghose came during her first Ambassadorial posting in South Korea.

“I found (in Seoul) that it was the custom for visiting delegations to be officially entertained by our hosts, even the Foreign Office, with a dinner at a ‘kisaeng’ house, where nubile young girls were on hand to ‘look after the comforts’ of the men.”

However, says Ghose, during her posting in South Korea she ensured that the Foreign Office did not include such events in the programme, (as I felt that the young girls were in a sense being exploited by their employers) much to the amusement of diplomatic colleagues and perhaps chagrin of the visitors.


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