India's top court on Monday ordered the federal government to grant permanent commission and command positions to female officers in the army on par with men, asserting that the government's arguments against the policy were based on gender stereotypes.
The court's decision, seen as a watershed moment for the Indian military, would mean that women can extend their short service roles in noncombat support units such as education, law and logistics until they want to retire and rise to the rank of Colonel, based on merit.
Currently, female officers can serve for only 10 to 14 years in the army.
"This is a historic decision and a significant day for not only those who are serving in the army but for also those who are desirers of joining forces," said Lt. Col. Anjali Bisht.
The Supreme Court's decision, however, does not mean that female officers will serve in army combat units such as the infantry, artillery or armored corps.
Monday's decision comes days after the government told the court that women were not suitable for commanding posts in the army, saying male troops were not prepared yet to accept female officers. It also said that male and female officers could not be treated equally when it came to postings because the "physical capacity of women officers remains a challenge for command of units."
The court said in its order that such arguments were against the concept of equality.
Previously, former army Chief of Staff and current Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat raked up a controversy when he said in an interview with a news channel that women were not ready for combat roles because they were responsible for raising children and would accuse male officers of peeping into their quarters.
"She will say somebody is peeping, so we will have to give a sheet around her," Rawat had told CNN-News18.
The petitioners in the case demanding equal rights for female officers welcomed the court's decision.
"This is very, very significant," said Meenakshi Lekhi, a lawyer. "A denial of particular progression was something which is inherently unequal and unjust."
Police in Hawaii are investigating the theft of fruit valued at about $1,000 including durian, which is known for its powerful odor.
Two men entered a property in Hilo on the Big Island and removed 18 durian and other types of fruit on the night of Feb. 1, the Hawaii Police Department said.
Authorities released a surveillance camera image of two suspects and asked the public for additional information that could lead to the capture of the fruit bandits.
The tropical, spiky durian fruit resembles a small porcupine and typically weighs from 2 to 7 pounds (1 to 3 kilograms).
Durian is known for a pale yellow flesh with a sweet taste but a smell that has been compared to moldy cheese, rotten onions, dead fish and far worse.
Durian is popular across Southeast Asia but also is commonly banned from hotel rooms and public transportation there.
The smell of rotting durian in a cupboard was mistaken for a gas leak and prompted an evacuation of a library at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia in April 2018.
An unknown poisonous chemical leaked from a container at a port in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi, killing at least five people and affecting 23 others, local police said Sunday.
According to the police, the chemical gas leaked when workers were unloading a chemical container from a ship docked at the port.
Sri Lanka asked the United States on Sunday to review its decision to impose a travel ban on the island nation's army chief, who has been accused of grave human rights abuses during the final stage of the country's civil war that ended 11 years ago.
Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena summoned U.S. Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz to the ministry and formally conveyed Sri Lanka's strong objections to the travel ban, which he said "unnecessarily complicates the U.S.-Sri Lanka relationship."
The U.S. government on Friday issued a travel ban on the army chief, Shavendra Silva, saying there is "credible information of his involvement" in human rights violations during the final phase of the war. The ban prohibits Silva and his family from traveling to the U.S.
Sri Lanka has denounced the ban, and on Sunday, Gunawardena reiterated that "there were no substantiated or proven allegations of human rights violations against him (Silva)," according to a foreign ministry statement.
Silva in 2009 was in charge of the 58th Division, which encircled the final stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the last stages of the civil war that killed at least 100,000 people. Human rights groups have accused the division of violating international human rights laws, including using artillery to shell a hospital, an allegation Silva has denied.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that "the allegations of gross human rights violations against Shavendra Silva, documented by the United Nations and other organizations, are serious and credible."
According to a 2015 investigation by the U.N. office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, near the end of the war, Silva was tasked with capturing Sri Lanka's Putumattalan area from the Tamil Tigers. The investigation cited evidence that the hospital and a U.N. facility had been shelled.
"Witnesses alleged the use of cluster-type munitions by the Sri Lankan armed forces in their attacks on Putumattalan hospital and the United Nations hub," the investigation's report said.
After the war, Silva was promoted to major general. He was promoted again and became Sri Lanka's army commander last year amid international condemnation, but he is widely respected among Sri Lanka's ethnic Sinhalese majority.
Pompeo urged Sri Lanka's government "to promote human rights, hold accountable individuals responsible for war crimes and human rights violations, advance security sector reform, and uphold its other commitments to pursue justice and reconciliation."
Gunawardena said Silva was appointed army commander because of his seniority and asked the U.S. to verify the authenticity of the sources of information.
Gunawardena said "it is disappointing that a foreign government should question the prerogative of a democratically elected president to call upon persons of proven expertise to hold key positions on national security related matters."
Sri Lanka declared victory over the rebels in May 2009, ending the Tamil Tigers' 26-year campaign for an independent state for minority ethnic Tamils. Both the Sri Lankan military and the rebels have been accused of wartime abuses.
The United Nations has said some 45,000 ethnic Tamil civilians may have been killed during the final months of the conflict alone.
Sri Lanka's government promised the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2015 that it would investigate the allegations against Silva and involve foreign prosecutors and judges, but has not done so.
Americans Cheryl and Paul Molesky are trading one coronavirus quarantine for another.
The couple from Syracuse, New York, are cutting short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be flown back to the United States. But they will have to spend another two-week quarantine period at a U.S. military facility to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia.
About 380 Americans are on the cruise ship. The Japanese defense ministry said around 300 of them were preparing Sunday night to leave on buses to take them to Tokyo's Haneda Airport. The U.S. State Department has arranged for charter flights to fly the Americans back to the United States. Canada, Hong Kong and Italy said they were planning similar flights of passengers.
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said Washington was evacuating the Americans because the passengers and crew members on board the Diamond Princess were at a high risk of exposure to the virus.
The Americans will be flown to Travis Air Force Base in California, with some continuing to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. After arriving in the U.S., all of the passengers will need to go through another 14 days of quarantine — meaning they will have been under quarantine for a total of nearly four weeks.
"We are glad to be going home," Cheryl Molesky told NHK TV in Japan. "It's just a little bit disappointing that we'll have to go through quarantine again, and we will probably not be as comfortable as the Diamond Princess, possibly."
"The biggest challenge has been the uncertainty," she added.
Molesky also said she was getting concerned about the rising number of patients on the ship.
"It's a little bit scary with the numbers going up of the people being taken off the ship for the (virus), so I think its time to go. I think its time to cut our losses and take off," she said.
Japan on Sunday announced another 70 infections on the Diamond Princess, raising the ship's total number of cases to 355. Overall, Japan has 413 confirmed cases of the virus, including one death.
Asked how they felt about the additional 14-day quarantine in the United States, Cheryl Molesky sighed, and her husband said, "If we have to go through that, we will go through that."
Some American passengers aboard the ship said they would pass up the opportunity to take a flight to the U.S. because of the additional quarantine. There also was worry over being on a long flight with other passengers who may be infected or in an incubation period.
One of the Americans, Matthew Smith, said in a tweet Sunday that he saw a passenger with no face mask talking at close quarters with another passenger. He said he and his wife scurried away. "If there are secondary infections onboard, this is why. ... And you wanted me to get on a bus with her?" he said.
He said the American health officials who visited their room was apparently surprised that the couple had decided to stay. They wished the couple luck, and Smith said he told them, "Thanks, but we're fine."