Lt. Col. Seema Singh (2L) and other women army personnel show victory signs after the apex court’s decision to apply permanent commission to all women officers in the Indian Army, at Supreme Court in New Delhi.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Lt. Col. Seema Singh (2L) and other women army personnel show victory signs after the apex court’s decision to apply permanent commission to all women officers in the Indian Army, at Supreme Court in New Delhi.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

Role of women officers in Indian armed forces | HT Explainer

There are more than 3,500 women in the military, but front-line combat roles were off limits to them until the Modi government approved an Indian Air Force (IAF) plan in 2015 to induct them into the fighter stream.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:19 AM IST

In light of the Supreme Court verdict on Monday, some important questions (and answers) about the role of women officers in the Indian armed forces.

When did the armed forces begin inducting women?

The army, air force and navy began inducting women as short-service commission (SSC) officers in 1992. This was the first time women were allowed to join the military outside the medical stream. Initially, they could serve for five years, and their service could be extended by another five years. In 2006, a policy revision allowed them to serve for a maximum of 14 years as SSC officers. Unlike male officers, women can join only through SSC; they are not given ab initio permanent commission in any of the armed forces

Are women allowed to serve in combat positions?

There are more than 3,500 women in the military, but front-line combat roles were off limits to them until the Modi government approved an Indian Air Force (IAF) plan in 2015 to induct them into the fighter stream. Warships, tanks and combat positions in the infantry are still no-go zones for women. Navy has women as pilots and observers on-board its maritime reconnaissance aircraft, which is a combat role.

In which wings were women first granted permanent commission?

In September 2008, the defence ministry decided to grant permanent commission (PC) to eligible SSC women officers in branches such as the Judge Advocate General and Army Education Corps. Until then, women in the armed forces were offered PC only in the medical wing.

Which branches of armed forces were later opened to women for PC?

Apart from legal and education wings, the army from this year will grant PC to women in branches such as Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence. After Monday’s Supreme Court order, women officers could command units in these branches, if found eligible. The IAF and Indian Navy also provide PC to women in select branches.

Will women officers be automatically eligible for PC after the SC verdict?

That is not the case. SSC women officers will be considered for the grant of PC on the basis of their suitability, merit and service needs. Just like male SSC officers, their suitability for PC will have to be approved by a board.

Are male SSC officers eligible for combat and command roles?

Male SSC officers who join fighting arms such as infantry, armoured corps and artillery are eligible for PC in those streams. As women SSC officers do not get commissioned into fighting arms, the question of them getting PC in arms such as infantry, armoured corps and artillery does not arise at the moment. Male SSC officers who meet the criteria for command roles are given such positions.

Which countries allow women in combat roles?

The United States, Israel, North Korea, France, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and Canada are among the global militaries that employ women in front-line combat positions. The Indian Army does not offer front-line combat roles to women.

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