The Promotion of Gender Equality by the Indian Forces; The Crossed Milestones and a Long Way Ahead

In February, the Supreme Court ruled that women should be considered for command roles and that all women officers are entitled to permanent commission. It also asked the army to give them permanent commission within 3 months in a major boost to gender equality.

Following this, in July the Indian defence ministry issued a formal sanction letter implementing the same.

Talking to Hindustan Times, an army spokesperson called it, ” empowering women officers shoulder larger roles in the organisation.”

The army also gave a statement saying, “In anticipation, the Army Headquarters had set in motion a series of prepatary actions for conduct of the permanent commission Selection Board for Affected women officers,”

For The First Time In History, Two Women Officers to be on-board Navy Warships

Today, the Indian Navy has announced that two women officers will accompany as ‘observers’ and Airborne tacticians in a helicopter stream that would ultimately mark the way for women, now being able to be posted in the front-line warships

The two women officers namely, Sub-Lieutenant Kumudini Tyagi and Sub-Lieutenant Riti Singh, would be the first set of women Airborne Tacticians in India to go in a helicopter stream. Before this decision of of the Navy the entry of women was only restricted to the fixed wing aircraft that took off and landed ashore.

The two women are a part of the batch of 17 officers of the Navy who were awarded ‘Wings’ on graduating as ‘Observers’ today. The award ceremony was held at INS Garuda.

Speaking on the occasion, Rear Admiral Antony George while complementing the graduating officers highlighted the fact that, it is a landmark occasion wherein for the first-time women are going to be trained in helicopter operations which would ultimately pave way for the deployment of women in frontline warships of Indian Navy.

Although women officers have been employed in the Indian navy from a long time, but weren’t deployed on warships for long periods of time due to many reasons, including the lack of privacy in crew quarters and the availability of gender-specific bathroom facilities on the ships. But now, the recruitment of the two women on the ships will change a lot things. They are being trained to operate a host of sensors onboard navy multi-role helicopters, which includes sonar consoles and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) payloads. It is expected that the officers will be eventually flying on the navy’s new MH-60 R helicopters, considered to be the most advanced multi-role helicopters of their class in the world, the helicopters are designed to detect enemy ships and submarines which can be engaged in using missiles and torpedoes. 24 of these helicopters are being made on order.

Talking to NDTV, Sub Lieutenant Singh said that, “Things are changing in the Indian Navy every day. The navy is giving everybody an opportunity every day. Yes, we’re breaking barriers every day but there are a lot of opportunities coming up every day. Whatever role the Indian Navy gives us, we will gladly take them,” Adding to that, she said that, “Our training has been really rigorous. We’ve both completed over 60 hours of training…. We take pressure and tension bang on. We don’t get worked up,”

Indian Air Force shortlisted a woman fighter pilot to operate in the Rafale fighter Jets

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has also announced shortlisting a woman fighter pilot to operate in its fleet of Rafale Fighter Jet today. The training of this officer has begun although its unclear when she would be declared as ‘operational’.

In 2016, Flight Lieutenant Bhawanna Kanth, Flight Lieutenant Avani Chaturvedi, and Flight Lieutenant Mohana Singh became the first Indian women fighter pilots.

The Fighter Pilot is being trained with the IAF’s Golden Arrows squadron in Ambala. The Ambala squadron is the first IAF squadron to operate the French built fighter jets. The Rafale Jets are considered to be the most advanced jets in the inventory of the Indian Air Force.

Indian Forces and the Role of Women

Women were first included as Military Nursing Officers in 1927 and as Medical Officers from 1943 in the British Indian Army at par to the organisational needs to look after the troops, families and the public during deployments.

Post Independence, in 1992, the inclusion of women officers was started in the Indian Army through Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES). The WSES was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.

In the early 2019, the government granted a permanent commission to women officers in eight streams of the Army, in addition to the Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Army Education Corps (AEC), that was granted in 2008.

All these decisions were taken on a voluntary basis by the Indian Army, in order to bring a change in the societal norms and breaking barriers, without the intervention of courts. Hence, saying that the army carried a patriarchal ideology and this was done to change it, wouldn’t be right. Their were a number of positions given specifically to women, at par with the men in the army, and the status of the positions kept changing as per the concerns of women.

In March 2020, the Supreme Court of India ruled in the favor to induct women officers in all types of warships in Indian Navy, as a natural process of societal evolution. To which, the Navy has obliged with the decision to include two women officers in its warships for a lengthy period of time.

The Supreme Court’s decision however does not deal with women in a combat role, which is considered to be the next looked upon milestone to be conquered in respect to gender equality in the forces. Although, the Government of India have spoken of the need to keep women away from combat arms and also of the psychological consequences the Government of India and the Army would suffer in the situation of a woman officer being taken away as a prisoner of war.

Lately, many countries have been seen to promote the functionality of women in their forces, not just with the agenda to promote equality, but also to find new skills and approaches to their systems. Women have been growing rapidly, crossing milestone after milestone, and we hope the same for the women pf India.

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