Demand of the question:
It expects students to write about the women’s participation in the armed forces. Students should also write about the positives and negatives of the issue.
A Supreme Court order cleared the way for the women officers for permanent commissions and equal opportunity to rise up to the level of Commanding Officer.
Following arguments highlight a major shift in the way women’s participation in the armed forces is perceived:
- Increase in service period: Induction of women officers started in 1992 only for a period of five years, eventually increasing it to 10 and to 14 years in later period.
- Increase in diversity of assigned roles: Earlier, limited to Medical Services; in 2019 government decided to grant permanent commission to women in all ten branches where they are inducted for Short Service Commission (SSC) – Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps and Intelligence.
- The women officers are proud and essential members of the Indian armed forces and their entry was need-based and mostly not court driven.
- Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh are now part of IAF’s fighter squadron.
- Navy has women as pilots and observers on-board its maritime reconnaissance aircraft, which is a combat role.
- Even Union defence minister has said that the government was committed to strengthening “stree shakti” (women power) in the military.
However, there are challenges in bringing women officers at par with their male colleagues:
- Though women officers are now allowed as pilot of fighter jets and leader of battleships but women officers in Army are not inducted in army’s infantry and armoured divisions, due to fear of getting caught by enemy and torture.
- In Israel, too, women are mostly deployed in the military police and perimeter security rather than in actual combat.
- It is claimed that male troops, who are predominantly drawn from rural backgrounds, may be unwilling to “accept” a woman commander.
- Concerns are raised over physiology, motherhood and physical attributes of women officers.
- The differences in conditions of service for women officers and their men counterparts is perceived in favour as well as, against them. The women officers have concessions in physical standards during recruitment, in battle physical efficiency tests.
- Women officer appointments need extra considerations to hygiene, sensitivities and privacy issues while accommodating them. In Siachen, there are posts with only four soldiers. They sleep and share the same cramped post.
- Male officer’s tenures in difficult field stations have increased, in adjusting women officers for spouse postings, child care leave.
To overcome the above mentioned pending issues and to implement SC orders following steps are needed:
- It will require a behavioural change at societal level first
- Need to revise their terms of engagement
- Certain concessions given to women officers can be withdrawn, and they can be put through the field and rough appointments with troops, to be at par with male counterparts and be accepted as ‘Leaders’ and not ‘Appointed Officers’.
- The selection for command assignments has to merit-based irrespective of gender.
- The selection for the command should be done through officer’s confidential reports and closed promotion board, common for both genders, and the names and gender of the profile should be hidden from selection board.
‘Gender Equality’ is the societal need of the hour and applies to both female and male officers and should be ensured in the spirit of the SC judgement without compromising the operational effectiveness of the Armed Forces.