The gender of an individual is not a hindrance when it comes to applying for a position in the armed forces. In modern warfare, having the necessary skills and knowledge is more advantageous than having brute strength. The Indian Armed Forces are in dire need of a strong mixed gender force as the recruitment and retention rates have reportedly gone down. By allowing women to serve in combat roles, this can be addressed. Due to the lack of women in command posts, the Indian Army decided not to allow women to serve as commanding officers. This issue has to be addressed in order to improve the culture and norms of the Army. The political and military leadership of the country must also play a role in making these changes. Some of the world’s most prominent military organizations, such as the US, France, Germany, and North Korea, have female officers serving in front-line combat roles. Women have the right to pursue their careers and reach the top ranks of the armed forces. Equality is a fundamental constitutional guarantee. The Indian Armed Forces have seen a surge in the participation of women. In a major push to the women intake by the forces, the government has also taken significant steps to increase the percentage ratio of women officers and other ranks (ORs). Whether it’s women in combat roles or the medical services in Defence, it’s a significant push towards their empowerment also.
In contrast to developed countries such as Canada, the UK, and USA, India has taken a long time to allow women to pursue other careers apart from being medical or nursing professionals. The number of women in India’s armed forces has significantly increased over the past couple of years. They are now joining the military as both soldiers and fighter pilots. There has been a lot of talk about the entry of women into the Indian Armed Forces. In spite of the male-dominated nature of the military, young women from India have been able to break the glass ceiling and are currently serving in various positions in the country’s armed forces. The government has also approved the induction of 1,700 women as jawans into the Corps of Military Police. Although women have been accepted into auxiliary services in the Indian Armed Forces, the issue of including or not allowing them in combat roles has been a persistent one.
Glance at the Indian Defence History with regard to Women:
In 1888, the Indian Military Nursing Service was established, which marked a significant step in the development of women’s roles in the Indian Armed Forces. During World War I, nurses from the Indian Army served in various capacities. The Women’s Auxiliary Corps was also established to allow women to take on non-combatant roles such as administrative and communications. One of the members of the corps was Noor Inayat, who served as a spy during the Second World War. She was able to earn a reputation for her service. Women were only allowed to serve in non-combat roles in the British Indian Army until Bose established the Azad Hind Fauj.
In 1950, the Army Act made it illegal for women to receive regular commissions. On November 1, 1958, the Medical Corps of the Indian Army became the first military organization to give female soldiers regular commissions. Women were also allowed to serve on short-service commission throughout the 80s to 90s. By 2020, women are not allowed to serve as combat troops in Special Forces such as the British Parachute Regiment. They can still join other non-combatant wings such as the signal corps and engineers.
Also, opposing arguments were made regarding including women in combat roles or in PC positions within the Indian Armed Force:
- Society in India is patriarchal, which makes it hard for women to participate in active combat roles.
- It has been believed that men are better at fighting than women due to their physical prowess and aggression.
Although women have been accepted into auxiliary services in the Indian Armed Forces, the issue of including or not allowing them in combat roles has been a persistent one. In February, the Supreme Court ruled that officers from the short-service commission can be granted permanent positions in the Indian Armed Force. Currently, officers in the Indian Armed Forces are only allowed to serve for 14 years. While a PC can serve until they retire, three options will be available for the SSC after 10 years, i.e., Elect for a Permanent Commission, Resign from service and Opt for resignation.
The Supreme Court’s ruling allowed women to serve in the Indian Armed Forces as PC officers. This was regarded as a significant step in the advancement of women’s roles within the military. Women are only allowed to participate in combat roles within the Indian Army and certain specialist brigades. Non-combatant positions are still available for women.
The percentage of women in Armed Forces is as under:
|Officers (Excluding AMC/ADC)
|Officers (excluding Medical & Dental Branch)
There are no vacancies for women in the Indian Army. The posts in the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy are gender neutral. There have been various steps taken by the government to increase the number of women in the defence sector. According to the above table, women officers of the Army Medical Corps and Army Dental Corps make up about 21.25% of the officers in the Indian Army. Participation of women makes up about 0.01 % of the total Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and ORs. Similarly, women represent 6% of the total officers in the Indian Navy and 13.69% in the Air Force, excluding the officers in the Medical and Dental branch.
The Indian Army’s combat employment philosophy for women is continuously reviewed. Currently, women are being commissioned into various streams in the Indian Army. These include the Corps of Engineers, the Corps of Signals, the Army Air Defence, the Army Service Corps, the Army Ordnance Corps, the Army Aviation Corps, the Intelligence Corps, the Judge Advocate General’s Branch, and the Army Education Corps. As for military nurses and doctors, these are women only positions. Various initiatives are being taken to improve the recruitment and training of women in the Indian Army. These include the establishment of a permanent commission for women officers and the recruitment of women cadets in the NDA.
In 1991, the Indian Navy started to recruit women as officers. Over the years, various branches of the organization have been opened for women, including through NDA. Women sailors are also being recruited through the Agnipath Scheme for the first time. About 20% of the total vacancies in the Navy are for women.
The recruitment of women in the Indian Air Force is conducted in a gender-neutral manner. All the branches of the organization are covered by women officers. There are also regular publicity drives and print and electronic media campaigns about opportunities for women in the service. An opening for women has been provided through the National Commission for Women’s Special entry for flying SSC. In 2015, the Indian Air Force started implementing a permanent scheme for inducting women officers into all combat roles. This approach is gender neutral and allows women to join the organization without any restrictions.
In 1992, the Indian Army started recruiting women. They were then commissioned for five years in various streams, such as engineering, intelligence, and education. Women are expected to participate and share information and power with others as they have been taught this since their childhood. They are also ruthless when the situation requires them. It’s natural for women to enhance their self-worth and get the most out of their colleagues. Unfortunately, the armed forces are still reluctant to allow women to join the ranks. Their role in the combat domain should be more broad- based. By breaking the gender barrier, India will join a select few countries worldwide. Women have previously served in various roles in the military, including in the technical and administrative fields. They finally got a chance to take on combat roles in the Military Police after the Supreme Court ruled that women can serve in command positions. The debate regarding women’s participation in combat roles in the Armed Forces has been going on for a long time now. It has taken a long time for the organization to come to a point where it accepts women’s participation in such roles. Unfortunately, in 2021, some retired generals are still maintaining that women should remain the weaker sex in the force. These generals use stereotypes to justify their position, and they point out the various facts about men’s physical attributes, such as their size and pulse rate. They also claim that women are incapable of shouting much louder and have a lower level of natural strength. If the military were to look into the qualities that a good soldier requires, it would be able to determine if women are equally capable of performing at the same level. Already, women have established a niche within the field of supporting services. Before making a decision regarding whether or not female soldiers should be allowed to enter the Army, two factors should be considered. One is the institution’s nature, and the other is the nature of combat. If women are equal in terms of their job performance in the Army, then they should be allowed to participate in combat roles. This is because, on many occasions, they have been able to perform at the same level as their male counterparts. Critics of the exclusion argue that modern warfare is more technological and doesn’t require the physical strength of older combat soldiers. In 1992, India started recruiting women into various non-medical positions in its armed forces. The government then took the first step towards allowing women to join the combat roles. In addition, the Air Force was allowed to recruit female pilots. During the time of the former, women were regarded as nurturers and followers, while men were leaders. Things have changed, and the role of women in the Army still remains controversial. This issue is also relevant to society at large. It’s widely believed that militaries don’t create employment. They have nothing to do when it comes to gender equality. One of the most important factors that the country can consider when it comes to addressing its issues is the empowerment of women in governance. Gender discrimination within the Armed Forces is a persistent issue that the country, which aspires to be a rising power, should address. Women should be treated equally in every aspect of their employment. There should also be regular attention paid to the administrative and institutional policies related to maternity leave and transfers. India’s attitude towards women has to be revamped in order to boost its economic growth and improve its image in the international community. Doing so will also help in promoting women’s empowerment. Besides being able to perform their duties as interpreters, they should also be able to communicate with other nations through their foreign language skills. This is because the country’s military is looking for people who can understand the language of other nations. Throughout history, India has produced numerous prominent women leaders and freedom fighters. It’s time for the Armed Forces to follow in their footsteps and create a feminist culture. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow women to serve longer tenures and receive promotions, the country’s armed forces will now be able to provide them with the same benefits and opportunities as their male counterparts. A positive change in the society is needed to promote gender equality, as well as to keep the country’s national security in mind. Doing so will help India become a better place.