Women aspiring to serve in combat roles in the armed forces will have to wait. The Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) — a panel comprising the three service chiefs — has advised the government against allowing women in roles that may require "close combat".
On the eve of Women's Day, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told Parliament: "A study conducted by the COSC has recommended exclusion of women officers in close-combat roles where chances of physical contact with the enemy are high."
It was after the Hindustan Times highlighted gender discrimination in the army last June that former defence minister Pranab Mukherjee asked the COSC, then headed by the navy chief, Admiral Arun Prakash, to study all aspects of women officers in the armed forces.
Over 900 women are serving in the army in a variety of combat-support roles such as logistics, communications and intelligence.
Prakash told HT that the time was not ripe for recruiting women in combat roles. "Many countries have been inducting women in the armed forces long before India began doing so. Even they have taken such decisions after great deliberation," he said.
But women officers feel they are ready to take on combat responsibilities. A lady officer said: "The army should not be afraid of experimenting. It should assign a small section of serving women officers to combat roles on a pilot basis. Based on results, a final decision can be taken."