Combat Role for Women in Indian Armed Forces
India’s radical move permitting women to take up combat roles in all sections of its armed forces has been commended by one and all. It has been a leap towards gender parity on the part of Indian Govt., in one of the world’s most male-dominated professions.Most countries employ women in various roles in their military but only a few, including New Zealand, Germany, Israel and the US, have allowed them to take on combat roles.
For most of human history, people serving in combat were overwhelmingly male. In a few cases however, individual women have been recorded as serving in combat roles disguised as men viz. Queen Boudica, who led the Britons against Rome & Joan of Arc are famous examples.
Our own Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi who fought against the British in the Revolt of 1857 was complemented by Sir Hugh Rose as “the only man among mutineers” and earned their respect.
In the First World War, Russia after February Revolution, used one all-female combat unit. In the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of British and German women served in combat roles in anti-aircraft units, where they shot down thousands of enemy aircraft. They were widely accepted because they were not at risk of capture. The Soviets also set up all-female sniper units and combat fighter planes units.
India began recruiting women to non-medical positions in the armed forces in 1992. Only 2.5 percent of more than one million personnel are female – most of them administrators, intelligence officers, doctors, nurses or dentists.
In October 2016, the government took the first steps towards bringing women into fighting roles and approved plans by the Indian Air Force for women pilots to fly warplanes from June 2017 on a three-year experimental basis.
Women in Combat Role: Issues
This debate centers more on the physical characteristics of individual women rather than the question of their overall contributions to teams and units.
- Motherhood accounts for 58% of hospitalizations among active-duty female troops.
- The female skeletal system is less dense, and more prone to breakages. There is also a concern that, in aviation, the female body is not as adept at handling the increased g-forces experienced by combat pilots.
- Furthermore, health and privacy issues regarding women are argued as a major reason.
Women soldiers argue that they should at least be free to have the option to serve in combat arms. However, they also emphasize that the principal struggle remains to get more female permanent commission (PC) officers into the different service branches, since short service commission officers can only serve for a period ranging from 5-14 years, which prohibits them from rising to higher military ranks.
With a wave of feminism in full force all around the world and gender equality being an integral part of UN Sustainable Development Goals to which India has agreed to, this is a welcome step by Indian Govt. as women have time and again proved their mettle against their male counterparts. The issues and limitations being majorly infrastructural can be successfully solved by taking the required steps thus making it easier for women to serve the nation and fulfill their dreams.