Women in Combat Forces

Women in Combat Forces

This article deals with ‘ Women in Combat Forces .’ This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here .

In news because

  • 2018: Government of India allowed women to occupy combat roles in all sections of the army, navy and air force.
  • 2019: Sainik Schools opened for girls  (Earlier, only boys could be admitted)
  • 2020: In the Babita Punia case (2020), Supreme Court ordered the government to ensure that Women are allowed Permanent Commission in the Armed Forces. Till that time, women officers were recruited through the Short Service commission for 14 years.
  • 2021: The Supreme court authorised women to take the National Defence Academy entrance exam (NDA).

Current position of woman in Combat Forces

Despite being inducted in the armed forces since the 1990s, women officers form a meagre number in the total armed forces of the country. Currently, the percentage of women in the Indian Forces

  • Army: 3.80% 
  • Air Force: 13%  
  • Navy: 6%

Earlier, Women officers were mainly inducted under the Short Service Commission (SCC), where they could serve a maximum of 14 years. Women were permanently commissioned only in the education, legal branches, medical, dental and nursing services.

In other countries as well, this issue is contentious. For example, countries such as UK and USA have been conservative about women in their respective combat arms. In contrast, others, like the Israeli Defense Forces, have achieved widespread integration of women.

Case study of Gunjan Saxena

Women in Combat Forces

The rationale for the decision to include women in forces

  • Unequal treatment of women leads to the infringement of 
    • Right to Equality  
    • Right to freedom of profession (Article 19(1)(g)).
  • Qualities required for a good soldier are taking responsibility for fellow soldiers, moral and mental toughness, being an expert in the use of a weapon, commitment etc., and women score better in these skills.
  • The best and fittest people should be taken, and the resource pool should not be limited to half by putting a blanket ban on women. 
  • The landscape of modern warfare has changed with more sophisticated weapons, a focus on intelligence gathering and the emergence of cyberspace as the combat arena.
  • Granting Permanent Commission to women officers will make them eligible for full pension post their retirement, thereby securing their futures.


  • Issue of acceptability of women as an officer by male jawans.
  • Concerns over women’s vulnerability in capture.
  • The combat roles are physically demanding.
  • Certain situations, such as pregnancy, can affect the deployability of women in combat.
  • It should not be a political gimmick.
  • In the name of Gender Equality, the security of the nation shouldn’t be put at risk. 

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