Review Of Role Of Women In Indian Military: A Debate

"Women officer candidates ought to be adjudged in all military aspects in total parity from Academy days right up to Lt Col. There cannot be partiality for or against. Similarly postings must also be similarly handed" - Opines Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma, former Adjutant General

Review Of Role Of Women In Indian Military: A Debate

Editor's Note:

The 'induction of women in the Indian military' started during early 90s in the Army and was followed by the Navy and Air Force. What started off with induction in small numbers with a short service commission later led to extended years of service and even permanent commission for WOs due to representation from WOs and favourable intervention of SC. Today, we have reached a stage where women officers in the Army are set to take command of units. How wise has this decision of inducting women in the Indian military been? What have been the consequences or implications? Where are we heading and at what cost?

Recently, a comprehensive piece titled 'Food for Thought' written on behalf of adversely affected army male officers was circulated in various Fauji chat groups. This piece highlighted the grim reality of relaxed standards, concessions and compromises made for women entry from the stage of training, postings and promotions till making them eligible for assuming command of units at the cost of more deserving and experienced male officers. This piece drew several varied but mainly supportive responses from the male veterans.

While these responses were coming in a relevant article in context with study and findings related to women in US military for last 75 years was posted by Gp Capt TP Srivastava. This piece when circulated enabled veterans draw meaningful comparisons with role and effectiveness of women in Indian military. Hence, the responses received to this have this added aspect of comparison of women in Indian military vis a vis US military.

All these responses published below have collectively brought out several valid points and the grim reality surrounding role of women in Indian military and likely way ahead. There was also a full fledged response from Brig Sanjay Sangwan that covered a lot of ground and hence published separately. It is now up to the readers to analyse all these responses and reach their own conclusions.

MVI  Trigger

The pressure of SC rulings clubbed with MoD attitude/approach and of course our own military leadership all have added to this dismal state of affairs! That is past! What is the way out and Way forward?

Col. Rajinder Kushwaha

Why do you blame Govt for your own doing ? Such proposals go from military only Govt only says: You are the best judge!

Maj Gen, CD Sawant

After 2 years, on receipt of feedback of performance in Command assignments by WOs, they will tweak the policy. We have no other option but to wait and watch. The male Lt Cols may also go to court.

Col. PK Royal Mehrishi

Welfare, Appeasement? Democracy, being politically correct (PC), lacking the guts to call a spade - a spade is taking its toll on our fine organisation too. No band aid treatment can cure years of malaise and internal rot. Urgent overall surgery and correction is required.

Gp Capt. TP Srivastava

Why blame women officers going to court? They learnt it from male counterparts quite a few of whom go to court when not promoted. Women officers have gone a step further. They are challenging the appointment given to them. Even before AFT came into existence I had proposed MAT. No court intervention on promotion and posting issues. Military as an institution has become adept at washing dirty linen in public.

Col. Yeshwant Umralkar

Well brought out. This should be sent to the Supreme Court which should take suo moto cognisance of this situation which denies natural justice to male offrs.
In fact, the concept of inducting women offrs in arms and services itself is a half baked idea which should have been rejected outright by the Service Chiefs. The whole gender equality thought must be relooked at.

Reiterating, India is not Sweden or USA where the female emancipation in the society has reached an appreciably high level and the women there can rub shoulders with men in service conditions. Today, a Commanding Offr would be better off without a woman offr on his team. His every decision to employ a woman offr in a particular task in the unit is invariably dictated by his judgement whether a woman offr would be able to do the job as well as a MALE offr would. Ultimately the efficiency of the unit is affected adversely.

Recently, a batch of girls were taken for training in the NDA. Three years in NDA and one to one and half years in respective service academies for these girl cadets. When they get commissioned their employment will be restricted to non combat jobs. If that is the case, why should public money be wasted on such prolonged training of these female cadets? They have cost the services the services of able MALE offrs who could have been gainfully employed in combat units.

The government must look at this whole concept again and restrict the entry of women offrs to select wings of the three services like Education Corps, Judge Advocate Branch, Medical Services and may be Postal Services. In addition they may be employed in appointments tenable by re-employed offrs in station headquarters, Canteen stores Dept and the like.

OPINION: Don’t just accommodate women in the military. Integrate!
It has been 75 years since The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 enabled women to join the U.S. Armed Forces.

Gp Capt. TP Srivastava

"Should Indian Military induct women as full fledged soldiers and not cosmetic addition!"

An issue that merits serious review and consideration at the highest level. Rather than leaving it as USA has done and is facing the consequences. It is not to be treated as gender issue of equality; it is to be viewed as National Security issue. Read and absorb the essence of the text mentioned below the title. Article has been reproduced verbatim. It is about time Indian Military addressed the issue with more compassion rather than ending up in courts. In battlefield there are no courts to adjudicate on matter.

Col. Vijay Bhate

Gp Capt TP Srivastava is very correct when he says "matter should not end up in court!" But real question is why courts have to come in? It is because Govt, MOD and our own service HQs have failed to take a stand which can be called comprehensive all throughout! They reacted to courts proding. Supreme Court (SC) could have been given a presentation on actual ground situation in active Zones to ensure that they take call on actual situation and not on gender equality and so on. We failed to do that and allowed SC take call basic principles. The only reason for not doing that could be that our own military hierarchy may have been/are afraid that the SC may be shocked to see conditions that our troops are serving in even today!

Brig. Pradeep Sharma

I am of the firm view that aping the West without due thought to the Indian Environment and requirement would only spell destruction of the Indian culture and need.

However, having said that, we require a change in our social norms for integration of women and protection from legal recourse. The legal system cannot be allowed to mess with the Armed Forces merely due to their lack of military knowledge.

Lt Gen. Harbhjan Singh

Our stand should be very crisp and simple. Why women are not part of men's boxing, cricket, hockey, wrestling teams!? Is combat with enemy less muscular or dangerous!?

Army has had lady doctors and nurses even before independence because of the working conditions but that also in Rear Areas.

Army is not anti-women!

Col. Parmesh Mehrishi

Future battles will have be fixed by adversaries. Women soldiers against Women, Men against Men only. As the physical, mental trg of a woman officer/troop will be conducted of a lower standard, putting Women soldiers against men will not ensure a level playing field. Wokeism at best, men will fight men and women strictly against women.

Either square the training standards and physical fitness of Women like men or manipulate the emerging battle field scenario. Even blood sports like MMA and boxing bouts are as per weight category and gender.

This is war we are talking about.

Col. NN Bhatia

Incidentally, maximum disciplinary cases are  in the armed forces of Israel, US and other western countries and are related to sexual abuse. Will we as father, brother, husband, son accept this abnormality? I can't visualise in remote field areas in HAA/ desert/ insurgency where there are DTLs with just a kanat and no bathrooms with privacy available 'acceptable' in extreme field/op conditions? Not of as now things stand in our society from small towns and rural areas. Kindly think and consider that this gender parity would add to our combat effectiveness or degradation? Also, think our women officers becoming POWs in combat and the likely barbaric treatment and sexual abuse by our tyrant adversaries both Pakistan and China!

Col. Pankaj Bhagwati

Rather than make arbitrary decisions on whether woman should be or be not inducted in the Armed forces, we need to take a step based on meritocracy, which cannot be refuted in any forum - be it Courts or Parliament.

The answer is very very simple. "Have the same physical and mental standards for men and women". Arguing that it is not Olympics where women will always face a women enemy contingent, women will all need to qualify and retain the same military standards as men. The result will be that in the long run either women themselves will NOT volunteer for joining and continuing in the servicer OR those who remain will be really fit.

Such a rule (to have the same physical and mental standards) is the right way to go ahead. It is non-controversial, aligned to the needs and logical. The only problem is that the senior hierarchy is somehow not illuminated about it.

Col. Rajinder Kushwaha

With 20th century templates, they want to fight 21st Century wars! They still think armies will zoom across borders and “women soldiers could be taken as PWs — raped and molested. Accordingly, it will be a national shame". What a great thinking of national consciousness!

Indian veterans are half a century behind in the emerging concepts of war, inclusive of RsMA and accompanying effect of advanced technology. To our veterans the Era of SMART WARS by SMART SOLDIERS with SMART WEAPONS is something Greek.

They fail to understand that future wars would not be of BRUTE FORCE but BRAIN FORCE. Quantity would be overshadowed by quality.

They did not learn any lesson from 2nd Gulf war, precursor of Brain Force War, when Saddam Hussain’s massive army collapsed within 60 hours.

They are drawing wrong lessons from Ukraine war between two MILITARY UNEQUALS. Russia has been checked by Ukraine not by matching physical force but qualitative force with new weapons of 21st Century.

To cut short my point, I advise the veterans not to underestimate Women soldiers. In fact, they would be more adept at the use of smart weapons than male soldiers. Why? Think of era of INVISIBLE WARS of Bio weapons; Bumble bee type smart drones being controlled from hundreds of miles away from battle zones; think of wars with NO FRONTS; NO REARS; think of terminally guided missiles (Hyper, cruise, Ballistic, etc) launched by Key board woman soldiers.

It is a large spectrum and future soldiers would not be male gender biased - they would be effective users of brains. Female version of soldiers would excel in use of brains.

Gp Capt. Johnson Chacko

Are we so short of men that women are needed to fight? Even Ukraine in this depleted state don't allow them to fight. Is there a social need that we don't have enough combatant males? If there is no need then we should not attempt it.

Brig. IS Gakhal

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander is a fine slogan but there are issues that need resolution before going full throttle. The US Army has taken 75 years to reach where they have in inducting women into combat situations. The society in the USA differs from the tradition and taboo bound Indian society. That males have dominated the Indian Army since ages is common knowledge. That this needs to change and women inducted is also a given. However, any change must be managed by preparing grounds for change. In our case it is Judiciary driven. Change must also be gradual for better acceptance and management. The MOD and Mil hierarchical setup have not been able to articulate their stand forcefully. This rush into inducting women into combat situations could prove dangerous if not done with well thought out road map.

Col. HS Gill

1. Does this imply that in future wars it will only be destruction and no invasions and capture of territory?

2. Our major adversary is China which has been laying claims over our territories everywhere! Will future conflicts with China happen without movement of troops across borders/LoC?

3. As on date are we equipped with such high-tech war machines where physical movement of troops won't be required across borders or within own territory? Is our defence budget sufficient?

4. Half of Indian Army is deployed in counter insurgency role. If at all we are in such a hurry to induct women to get over the gender bias then let women have a taste of facing bullets and sharpnel and not be kept only on desk jobs.

5. Entire exercise of  inducting women in defence forces is for appeasement by our generalship for their personal gains.

Role Of Women In Indian Military Needs Critical Review
“Women are not meant for this role physically, emotionally, psychologically or socially and except small deviations which might get absorbed/ accommodated anytime man has ventured to control or go against nature, he has had a heavy price to pay.” Opines Brig Sanjay Sangwan

Maj Gen. CD Sawant

Women have a place in Indian Army in selective areas but definitely not in Combat Arms. They have been doing fairly well in services, however ,my experience indicates that the COs of Services units rather than treating them as equals are apprehensive or scared of them. The senior officers are also to blame as they look at these WOs as their daughters and most of them give them preferential treatment. The WOs are now being given command of units, after two years the Army will need to review their performance as COs and further action is likely to follow. The veterans community may write a lot about them but they have a great disadvantage that is lack of logic in policy decisions taken, e.g. recently it was published that WOs will be inducted in The Regt of Artillery. None of us know who took the decision and why? Therefore, whatever we write about it is like shooting in the dark.

Lt Gen. Rakesh Sharma

The debate needs to be conducted with rationality and without emotion. Use of words like ‘female species’ exhibit patriarchal mindset which is not conducive to logical consideration. There is a Supreme Court decision and the Govt view point that cannot be brushed aside. It must be rationally addressed.

Women officer candidates ought to be adjudged in all military aspects in total parity from Academy days right up to Lt Col. There cannot be partiality for or against. Similarly postings must also be similarly handled, with some spouse postings, though not a guarantee, as operational parameters override family considerations even for male officers. Allowance for pregnancy must be given as per GOI orders on the subject.

The orders must be promulgated as terms and conditions of service duly vetted legally and approved Governmentally. They should also be submitted as affidavit to SC, as the court has been seeking it. The aspirant candidates must sign the acceptance of terms and conditions of service.

Col. Rajinder Kushwaha

Question is not of shortage of able bodied men but of the democratic principle of equal opportunities. All progressive and democratic societies follow this principle.

In certain disciplines, women are better than men. Soldiering should not be the bastion of males alone. It should be open to all genders. We must break chains of 'Gender reservation' -  if women can prove better then they must be given an opportunity.

In technical and logistic jobs, women can prove better than men. AOC, ASC, AD, AMC, NURSING, EME, SIGNALS, CMP, some non-field jobs in ENGINEERS etc women will excel.

I can also say that women are mentally more robust than men. What they lack in physical strength, they make up by mental robustness. They are emotionally more stronger and psychologically better equipped to stay away from corrupt practices. What more, they can better handle peace time logistic units such as Ammunition Depot, Supply Depots, engineer stores, transit camps and so on.

(Views expressed are the respondent's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

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