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Gender Parity in Armed Forces
Sep 13, 2017

[GS Paper I: (Role of Women, Social Empowerment)]

Why in News?

Army has recently announced that it will admit nearly 800 women into the Corps of Military Police in non-officer ranks over the next few years. The decision has come in the backdrop of increasing requirement for investigations into gender-specific crimes and allegations of discrimination.

  • There are 3,578 women officers in the three defence services. This broadly represents about 3.64% in the Army, 4.49% in the Navy and 13% in the IAF.
  • Though Indian military has only a minuscule number of women in service, a large number of them are fighting court cases or complaints against discrimination in various forums.
Note: Corps of Military Police (CMP) is the military police of the Indian Army. In addition, the CMP is trained to handle prisoners of war and to regulate traffic, as well as to handle basic telecommunication equipment such as telephone exchanges.

Issues faced by Women in Armed Forces

  • Denial of Permanent Commission: Women were allowed to join the military as officers other than the medical stream for the first time in 1992.

• However, most of the appointments are still made under Short Service Commission (SSC) denying future growth prospects like promotions and pay parity to women officers. 
• Only few selected streams like law, logistics, air traffic control, education and Naval Armament Instructor (NAI) have been opened for permanent commission.
• The reason given for denying permanent commission is that women may find it difficult to adjust to harsh terrain and poor living standards. Another major concern is about their getting captured and tortured by the enemy.

  • Gender Discrimination: Women joining the armed forces receive the same training as their male counterparts and work for a comparable number of years but they are discriminated against for the only reason that they are women. The forces must tackle entrenched sexist attitudes towards women

Is the role of women in military combat new?

  • In the post-industrial revolution period, the first large- scale mobilisation of women for military purposes happened during the WWI, though their role was largely confined to nursing.
  • During the WWII, women soldiers were recruited, most of which was voluntary. 
  • The Soviet Union was the first major country to recruit women for frontline combat positions. 
  • Official recognition of women as full-fledged members of the forces started in late 1940s. Women became officially recognised as a permanent part of the US forces in 1948, UK in 1949 and Canada in 1951.
  • In 1943, Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) raised the all-women Rani of Jhansi Regiment to operate as guerrilla infantry to fight the British forces.
  • Turkey is the first country to allow women to fly fighter planes. In 2016, the Indian Air Force formally commissioned its first women fighter pilots.

Way Forward

  • The proportion of women in India’s armed forces and the police forces is low in terms of global comparative figures, and recent research indicates that persistent bias is a strong ground that drives women away from seeking to serve in them.
  • Adequate infrastructure is required for increasing the induction of women in the armed forces. The recent step brings the society closer to its ambition of having gender-just institutions that can empower women.


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