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 important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here .

In news because

  • 2018 : India announced that women will be allowed to occupy combat roles in all sections of  army, navy and air force  .
  • 2019 : Sainik Schools opened for girls  (Earlier only boys could take admission)
  • 2020 : Women allowed Permanent Commission by Supreme Court. So far, women officers are recruited mostly on short service commission for 14 years  , which means they are not eligible to get pension.

Current position

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

  1. Army :  3.80%
  2. Air Force : 13% 
  3. Navy : 6%

Earlier, Women officers were mostly inducted under the Short service commission (SCC) where they can serve maximum of 14 years .  Women were directly permanently commissioned only in the education, legal branches, medical, dental and nursing services.

In other countries as well, this issue is contentious.  Countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States have been conservative about women in their respective combat arms, while others like the Israeli Defense Forces have achieved widespread integration of women.

Case study of Gunjan Saxena

Women in Combat Forces


  • Issue of acceptability of women as officer by men  .
  • Concerns over women’s vulnerability on capture and maternity women are not allowed in combat roles
  • The combat roles are  physically demanding  .
  • It should not be a political gimmick  .
  • On name of Gender Equality, security of nation shouldn’t be put at risk . 

Rationale for the decision to include women in forces

  • 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; expert in the use of weapon ,  commitment etc and women score better in these .
  • Best and fittest people should be taken and   resource pool should not be limited to half by putting a blanket ban on women.
  • Landscape of modern warfare itself has changed with more sophisticated weapons, focus on intelligence gathering and emergence of cyberspace as arenas of combat.
  • Granting Permanent Commission to women officers will make them eligible to full pension post their retirement, thereby securing their futures.

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