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Defence & Security

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Women in Armed Forces

  • SC directs the Centre to grant permanent commission to SSC women officers within three months.
  • The SC judgement grants pension benefits to retired women officers who were not granted permanent commission

Significance

The Supreme Court’s latest order will allow women officers to take up a permanent commission in the Indian navy and serve until their retirement.

Combat vs command roles

  • For much of human history, those serving in combat roles have been overwhelmingly male. So far, combat roles such as infantry, artillery, and armoury in the Indian Army, application of maritime power in both offensive operations against enemy forces territory and trade, and defensive operations to protect own forces, territory and trade in Indian Navy and airfield and ground defence guards in the IAF have been reserved for men. In a few cases, however, individual women have been recorded as serving in combat roles or in leadership roles.
  • And while there are doors open for women to take on combat roles in the IAF and Navy, the Indian Army remains conservative. Very few countries including the US, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden and Israel have allowed women in combat roles.
  • “This has nothing to do with questioning women’s capabilities or intelligence. Women have been in command roles in many sections of the Indian Army. We have women generals, so there is nothing like women are not given those roles,” says Adarsh Shastri (name changed), a colonel of the Indian Army.He explains that combat and commanding roles are two different things; and that it is not a straightjacket, as it is perceived by almost everyone. “It’s a wrong impression that people have about the defence forces. It is not about being sexist. The Army is following the rules that were laid out initially. Women are there in combat and non-combat roles, and they are just as good and as bad as any other male officer,” says Col. Shastri.

Women on top

  • In December 2019, 24-year-old Sub-Lieutenant Shivangi became the first-ever woman pilot in the Indian Navy to steer a fixed-wing Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft. In 2017, six women officers from the Navy — comprising skipper Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, Lt. Cdr. Pratibha Jamwal, Lt. Cdr. Swati P, Lt. Aishwarya Boddapati, Lt. S Vijaya Devi and Lt. Payal Gupta — charted their path into history by circumnavigating the globe in INSV Tarini.
  • In other similar instances, Flight Lieutenant Parul Bharadwaj, Flying Officer Aman Nidhi and Flight Lieutenant Hina Jaiswal became the first all-women crew to embark on a battle Inoculation Training Mission.
  • Flight Lieutenant Avani Chaturvedi along with fighter pilots Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh are among the nation’s first women combat pilots, and they are inducted into the IAF’s fighter squadron.
  • Flying officer Aman Nidhi expressed that her being a woman cannot be a deciding factor whether she should be given the combat role or not. “My contribution will be equal to my male counterparts, nothing less. We have proved to the nation that there is nothing that women can’t do,” she avers.
  • Captain Tania Shergill of the Indian Army, who made the headlines for leading the all-men contingent on Army Day on January 15 this year, adds, “If women are given a combat role in the Indian Army, then we are up for it.”
  • Sub-Lieutenant Shivangi adds, “I know there is nothing that women can’t do. My challenges are the same, as any man would face.”