Women in armed forces

GS 2-GOVERNANCE: Development processes : Human Development-Gender Equality


      The Indian Armed Forces are the military forces of the Republic of India. It consists of three professional uniformed services: the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force. The President of India is the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. 

  • Additionally, the Indian Armed Forces are supported by the Indian Coast Guard and paramilitary organisations(Assam Rifles, and Special Frontier Force)
  •  various inter-service commands such as:
    • the Strategic Forces Command
    • the Andaman and Nicobar Command
    • the Integrated Defence Staff.
  •  The Indian Armed Forces are under the management of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of the Government of India. 

With strength of over 1.4 million personnel,(the world’s second-largest military force,has the world’s largest volunteer army.)


Recent NEWS:

  • Indian Navy announced selection of two women officers as Observers in the helicopter stream-first women airborne combatants (operating from warships.)


  • Prior to 1992-women officers were inducted in the Navy only in the medical stream from the Armed Forces Medical Service.
  • July 1992-the Navy started inducting women, initially through a special entry scheme and later through Short Service Commission(select branches)
  • only inducted as Commissioned Officers and not in Other Ranks which are of categories of Junior Commissioned Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers.
  • 2000s- women officers from the Medical and Logistics stream were deployed on board Naval ships.(discontinued for various reasons.)

Women officers in new streams:

  • In March-the Supreme Court had upheld that the women Short Service Commission officers in the Navy were eligible for Permanent Commission.
  • Short service Commission tenures are of 10 years, extendable by four years (after that eligible for permanent commission.)
  • Navy had also inducted the first woman pilot in December last year.

Gender equality:

  • Article 14:-“The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”(equality before the law or equal protection of the laws)
  • Article 16:-the State cannot discriminate against citizen in the matters of employment.


  • History is replete with examples where women have been denied their just entitlements under law and the right to fair and equal treatment in the workplace.
  • Reasons have been advanced by decision range from physiology, motherhood and physical attributes to the male dominated hierarchies.
  • Union of India & Others Vs Annie Nagaraja & Others, Apex Court bench said-“The battle for gender equality is about confronting the battles of the mind.”
  • Till now women were inducted as observers for fixed wing aircraft which take off and land ashore.
    • Entry in the helicopter stream means that women officers can now be deployed on frontline warships from which helicopters can operate.
  • The question of mindset and gender sensitization.
  • Too much media and public attention on these new entrants can put unwanted pressure on them.
  • While women officers appreciate the support of many male military leaders, they also highlight the resistance from the system as a whole.

Way Forward

  • Gender equality can be achieved by establishing professional standards and adhering to them without any bias.
  • The framework for the induction of women should be incorporated into a policy.
  • Preserving the female officers’ modesty and dignity.
  • Should be elaborate codes of conduct to ensure no adverse incident occurs.
  • Excuses are not answer to the constitutional entitlement to dignity,irrespective of gender, to fair and equal conditions of work.
  • A level playing field ensures that women have the opportunity to overcome their histories of discrimination based on
    • competence
    • ability
    • performance.
  • Along with the commanding role, should provide with the same level of training which male officers get.
  • Induction of more women in command force will require updating infrastructure.


       Women officers hope that these developments would result in them being posted at commanding positions.A key for career advancements in the operational streams and also someday lead to deployments including that in the submarines.       A woman should be equally equipped to handle the extraneous psychological and physical process which a male officer goes through.

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