The position of women in the armed forces, which is generally described as a male-dominated establishment, offers a limited window for any kind of change in the role of women in professional and bureaucratic structures. However, breaking the glass ceiling, two female officers were selected to train as helicopter pilots at the Nashik Combat Army Training School. Until now, female officers have been limited to performing ground duties in the Army Aviation Corps.
Today, women walk side by side with men in all professions. However, gender equality remains a key challenge in the armed forces. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that women could serve as army commanders, further granting permanent commission and equal promotions to their male counterparts.
The decisions stood in stark contrast to the Centre’s view, which belonged to the school of thought that women were unsuited to command positions in the military because male troops were not yet ready to accept their orders. However, female officers in the Indian army are of the opinion that trained soldiers should focus on the rank of the officer and not gender. They further reiterate that performance should be a criteria in deciding who moves up the ranks.
From time immemorial, women have proven themselves and behaved extremely well in places of peace and in hostile areas. The role of women in the Indian Army began in 1888 when the ‘Indian Military Nursing Service’ was formed during the British Raj, but it was not until 1992 that the organization opened doors and gained began to induct women into non-medical roles. In 2015, India also opened new roles in the combat air force for women as fighter pilots. However, despite all these developments, women in the Indian armed forces who constitute 3% of the Indian army are still not allowed to actively participate in combat.
Active combat, also known as the combat arms of the armed forces, is primarily defined as individuals or groups fighting in a war and the casualties suffered in combat.
The employment of women in the combat forces has become a major issue these days, two schools of thought emerge, the first professing that female officers are on an equal footing with male officers in the performance of their duties, on the other hand, supporters of the latter claim that it is exploitation of women to deploy them in combat zones since they are not physically and psychologically fit for the job.
However, if we go back in history, women made their contribution in the armed forces by working in the defense industry during the world wars. There has been a huge influx of women into munitions, work that used to be done by men. About a million women worked in munitions factories during World War I making guns, shells and explosives.
The whole assumption that women lack resolve and how fragility and delicacy are synonymous with feminine character has just exploded in contemporary times because history is a testament to the fact that women have always made proof of courage and bravery.
The central question that arises here is: why is war a man’s business? The main reason cited by Indian Army generals and people who follow the latter school of thought is that they are concerned about the vulnerability of women if captured and their physical and mental capacity to cope with deployments of First line. Under such circumstances, the constant question being whether women should serve in combat roles? Liberals argue that women should have access to the same military jobs as men; they are of the opinion that this woman would also gain greater political power. Conservatives reject the notion of women in combat. In the current status quo, women have fought for their right to equality in all spheres of endeavor, they demand equal opportunity in the workplace, which results in the Indian army not doing exception to this wave of equality. The relevant question being whether the military should change with the changing times?
(Disclaimer: The views of the author do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also does not endorse the views of the author.)