Women in the Indian Armed Forces

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 7, 2023, 14:53

On 17th February 2020, the Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgment based on a case filed by 17 Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers. This judgment granted women officers the right to Permanent Commissions (PC) like their male counterparts.

Despite the strong steps and progressive steps being taken, the Indian Armed Forces is still a largely male-dominated establishment. Women are limited to non-combat roles, and this Supreme Court judgment aims to change this. Women can now serve as army commanders and get PCs and promotions, providing gender parity in the Indian Armed Forces.

In this blog, we will explore the role of Women in the Indian Armed Forces and some key highlights of their achievements.

History of Women in the Indian Armed Forces

In 1888, Women in the Indian Armed Forces served as part of the Indian Military Nursing Service,' and nurses served with distinction in the First World War. It was further expanded with the formation of the Women's Auxiliary Corps, which allowed Women in the Indian Armed Forces to serve in non-combat roles like communication, accounting, administration, etc.

Women like Noor Inayat Khan served as a spy during the Second World War, while the Azad Hind Fauj, founded by Netaji Subhash Chandra bose, had a women's regiment named the Rani of Jhansi Regiment.

This was the first instance of women serving in combat roles, taking inspiration from the legendary Quen of Jhansi, who fought the British during the 1857 Revolt.

Significance of Women in the Indian Armed Forces

With changes to the perception and regulations for women in the armed forces, the prospects for women in combat units and other army battalions are strong.

It creates a more gender-inclusive force, as top positions are now offered as per the person's qualification and capability, not their gender. It also helps add gender diversity to the military and can help address some of the key problems faced by the armed forces, like falling retention rates and recruitment rates.

The growing role and acceptance of women in the armed forces also pave the way for changes to the army and society's culture, norms, and values.

Allowing women to pursue combat roles and take up top leadership positions based on their qualifications ensures equality and the ability for every woman to pursue a career of her choice and reach the top, as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

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Current Role of Women in the Indian Armed Forces

Post-independence, the role of Women in the Indian Armed Forces improved. In 1958, the Army Medical Corps was the first Indian Army unit to be awarded regular commissions for women. Many women have joined the Indian Armed Forces through the Short Service Commission.

As per the Supreme Court ruling in 2020, lady officers are now granted permanent commission (PC) in 10 streams, which are -

  1. Army Air Defence (AAD)
  2. Signals
  3. Engineers
  4. Army Aviation
  5. Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME)
  6. Army Service Corps (ASC)
  7. Army Ordnance Corps (AOC)
  8. Intelligence Corps

Streams that had existing PCs for women

  1. Judge and Advocate General (JAG)
  2. Army Educational Corps (AEC)

Permanent Commission for Women in the Indian Armed Forces means -

  • Options for higher studies
  • Service career courses at the National Defence College, Army War College, The Defence Services Staff College
  • Entitlement to pension
  • Ex-serviceman status and consequent benefits post-retirement
  • No need for women to look for alternative careers after 14 years of service
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Percentage of Women in the Indian Armed Forces

Today, countries like the United States, Israel, North Korea, Germany, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, and France are some global militaries that employ women in front-line combat roles. With the need for greater equality and opportunity for women, there are still several changes the Indian Armed Forces can make to create a level playing field despite gender. The percentage of women serving in the Indian Armed Forces today is as below:

  • Indian Air Force: 1.08%
  • Indian Navy: 6.5%
  • Indian Army: 0.56%

This number can be improved, and the landmark judgment of 2020 is a welcome step in this direction!

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FAQs on Women in the Indian Armed Forces

Q.1. How many Women in the Indian Armed Forces?

According to the response furnished by Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik, there were 6807 (0.56%) Women in the Indian Armed Forces.

Q.2. Are Women in the Indian Armed Forces Allowed?

Yes, Women in the Indian Armed Forces are Allowed, they can join their ranks, including combat roles (junior rank) and combat supervisory roles (officers). As per a government order, women officers can join the Army Air Defence (AAD), Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics & Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), and Intelligence Corps in addition to Judge and Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC).

Q.3. Who was the First Woman Lieutenant General of the Indian Army (LG)?

Punita Arora was the First Lieutenant General Woman in the Indian Army.

Q.4. What is the role of Women in the Indian Armed Forces?

In recent times, the importance of Women in the Indian Armed Forces is increasing, but women are still assigned only non-combat arms in the Infantry and Armoured Corps.

Q.5. What are the various ways to join Women in the Indian Armed Forces?

Women in the Indian Armed Forces can join and do so for 14 years under the Short Service Commission Scheme for Women. The SSCW allows female applicants to apply for Non-Tech, National Cadet Corps (NCC), Judge Advocate General (JAG), and Technical operations.