Wednesday, October 1, 2008

India: Women in Armed Forces

A decision on whether women officers will be granted a permanent commission in the Indian Defence Force will take place very shortly.

From Newkerala:
"The top brass of the armed forces have already agreed on opening up more avenues for women officers and granting them permanent commission in non-combatant branches.

“The decision to grant permanent commission to women has been agreed in principle and the announcement will be made very shortly,” the official told IANS adding that an announcement on this is likely within this month.

The Chiefs of Staff Committee has approved the recommendations of the three wings of the armed forces to grant permanent commissions to women and has sent this to the defence ministry for approval.

Women are currently eligible for a permanent commission only in the medical, nursing and dental services of the armed forces. They are also eligible for short service commissions in these services, as also in the supporting but non-combatant arms of the armed forces.

Currently, 5,137 women officers serve in the armed forces. They include 4,101 in the army, 784 in the air force, and 252 in the navy.

In the army, women serve in support arms like the Corps of Signals, Army Ordnance Corps, the Corps of Electronic and Mechanical Engineers, and the Army Service Corps.

In the air force, women are inducted in all streams, barring the fighter stream, while in the navy, there are restrictions on posting women officers aboard ships and submarines."

From India Defence Reports:
"India is just a step closer to having women as permanent commissioned officers in its armed forces, with the tri-services giving their consent to a proposal from the government in this regard.

The four years time (till 2013) was required to work out modalities of the permanent commission and to customise the Academies' courses and infrastructure to accommodate the women cadets, who would be brushing shoulders with their men counterparts at these academies on an equal footing, he said.

At present, the Indian armed forces offer only short service commission for women of five years service, extendable to a total of 14 years. India started enrolling women as officers in the armed forces in 1992 and at present the tri-services have a cumulative strength of about 2,000 women officers mainly in the non-combat streams, with the Army employing half of the pack.

However, the debate at present over the permanent commissioning of women was over the streams they could be accommodated, as combat streams increase the possibility of coming in contact with enemy during conflicts. The COSC is currently discussing possible streams, arms and services of the Army, Navy and Air Force, where women could be given permanent commissioning.

Currently, women officers are given short service commission in streams such as Education, Signals, Ordnance, helicopter and transport aircraft flying, navigation, and such arms and services. "There certainly are differences between war- and peace-time duties. Yes, permanent commission for women will be in non-combat streams till we accept the fact that they will come in contact with the enemy if in combat streams," Mukherjee said.

The government is not likely to heed to the demand for combat roles for women, though it is likely to clear the permanent commission in non-combat roles, with Defence Minister A K Antony spelling out his support for the latter recently.

With the Armed Forces are already facing a shortage of about 13,000 in officer cadre and the military academies suffering from fall in number of new recruits, the move of the government to provide permanent commission for women could well turn out to be the answer to the recruitment troubles of the academies."

Indian Defence Review: Women in the Armed Forces (2007)

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