The number of women in the Indian armed forces has increased almost three fold over the last few years. No more are they just in the medical field; they are now joining the forces as not only a soldier, but also as a fighter pilot and command posting in the army.
In recent times, there has been a lot of discussion with reference to the entry of women in the Indian armed forces. Unlike developed countries like the USA, UK, Germany, and Canada, India has taken a longer time to let the women in other avenues besides the usual nursing or medical roles.
Based on the information in the public domain, the US has played a major role when it comes to inducting women in the armed forces. Today it has over 200,000 women in active duty, and it means almost 20 percent of the US armed force’s bench strength.
Israel too has women in its forces though not in combat roles but in technical and administrative posts.
In the male dominated area, these young Indian women have managed to break the glass ceiling by pushing forward and as on date almost 9,118 women are on active duties who are serving in the Indian Army, Air Force, and the Navy. The government has given approval for the induction of 1,700 females as jawans in the Corps of Military Police.
The first time women joined the Indian Armed Forces was back in 1888 when the Indian Military Nursing Service was created. And all the nursing staff of the Indian Army at that time played a very important role in World War I. Impressed by their performance, the top Army brass decided to expand and to reinforce the women’s wing and formed the Women’s Auxiliary Corps. This Corps was to facilitate women to serve in non-combatant roles like accounting, communications, and administration.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj, had an exclusive women’s combat regiment; Rani of Jhansi Regiment had women who fought in the battlefront against the Imperial Japanese Army in erstwhile Burma.
Women in the Indian Armed Forces
According to a lady officer in the Indian Army, “The Army gives us an opportunity to help us meet our professional and personal life requirements. As an officer, it gives us immense pride to serve our nation.”
The support system of the army helps in making a woman stronger and makes her a warrior for life.
The first women fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force (IAF) started flying MiG-21 Bisons in 2016. According to the women fighter pilots of IAF, there is no gender bias; the difficulties faced are the same for the make pilots too.
As has been reported earlier, the Supreme Court of India in a historic judgement had ordered the Centre to grant Permanent Commission to Women Officers in all three Services where women are eligible for commission.
In July 2020, as per the order of the government, grant of permanent commission to women officers be given in 10 streams made national headlines — Army Air Defence (AAD), Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), and Intelligence Corps in additionally to the prevailing streams of Judge and Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC).
In March 2020, the highest court of the country passed a milestone judgement on women in combat arms.
There has been a significant increase in the number of women who have been deployed in the forces since 2020, apart from the lady officers in the Army Education Corps, they can now be considered for command posts too in the Indian Army.
In February 2021, details provided by the government in Rajya Sabha indicated that the Indian Navy has the highest number of women in its workforce among the three services at 6.5 percent. And, the percentage of women in the Army and the Indian Air Force is 0.56 and 1.08 respectively.
According to the details furnished by the then Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik, in a written response, there are 6,807 women who are in the Army and the number of men serving is 12, 18,036.
In the case of the Indian Navy, the percentage of women officers is 6.5 percent with 704 women serving as compared to the 10,108 men in the force. And the women have been inducted at the officer level at present. Women have been part of the service since 1992 and they were part of three streams present at that time which included logistics, education and law. Today there are more options for the women in the navy – as observers for maritime reconnaissance aircraft, pilots and avenues in the naval armament inspectorate.