Women in Armed Force
The Supreme Court directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the Army within three months, terming the Centre’s argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying them command posts “disturbing”.
• A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said that an absolute bar on granting command posts to women officers in the Army is against the Right to Equality and hence there will not be any absolute bar.
• The bench said it is of the opinion that physiological features of women have no effect in granting permanent commission and they have to be given equal opportunity at par with their male counterparts in the armed forces.
• It said that Centre’s submission of physiological limitation is based on flawed notion and there is no constitutional basis to deny them equal opportunity.
• The top court said permanent commission can be given to the women officers in the Army irrespective of their tenure of service.
• In 1992, the Indian Army began inducting women officers in non-medical roles.
• In 2007, the United Nations first all-female peacekeeping force made up of 105 Indian policewomen was deployed to Liberia.
• All wings of the Indian Armed Forces allow women in combat roles (junior ranks) and combat supervisory roles (officers), except Indian Army (inducted for support roles only) and Special Forces of India (trainer role only).
• Females are not allowed to serve in combat units like the Infantry, the Armoured Corps and Mechanized infantry.
• Under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme, women are allowed to enter Army Service Corps, Ordnance, Education Corps, Judge Advocate General (JAG), Engineers, Signals, Intelligence and Electronics & Mechanical Engineering branches of the Army.
• Only in certain streams like the Judge Advocate General, Army Education Corps (AEC) and the Military Police, women are given permanent commission at par with male officers.
• Unlike male officers who could have joined under the SSC scheme and could have opted for a permanent scheme at the end of ten years, women SSC officers did not have the same option.
However, Prime Minister has announced on Independence Day in 2018, that permanent commission would be granted to serving women officers of the armed forces. It will change the career paths of more than 3,700 women officers in the three services.
• The natural physical differences in stature, strength, and body composition between the sexes make women more vulnerable to certain types of injuries and medical problems. This is particularly so during vigorous and intensive training.
• Pre-entry physical fitness levels tend to be lower in most women recruits compared with men, and hence, when standards of training remain the same for the two genders, there is a higher probability of injuries among the women.
• The natural processes of menstruation and pregnancy make women particularly vulnerable in combat situations. Lack of privacy and sanitation can result in an increased incidence of genitourinary infections.
• The effect of prolonged deployment in difficult terrains and grueling physical activity on the reproductive health of women is still unknown.
Social and psychological issues
• Women tend to be more attached to their families, particularly their children. This translates into greater mental stress and requirement of social support to sustain themselves during prolonged separations from family.
• Another social aspect leading to mental stress in women in the military is that of isolation. This is due to the fact that men far outnumber women in the military, particularly in combat zones.
• The issue of military sexual trauma (MST) and its effect on the physical and mental well-being of women combatants is grave.
• MST may lead to grave, long-term psychological problems, including posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSDs), depression, and substance abuse.
• The consequences of inserting a few women in an almost entirely male preserve, in cramped quarters, in inhospitable terrain, isolated from civilization, might raise conservative eyebrows of the society.
• Another major question that needs to be studied is the acceptance of orders of the women officers by the jawans.
SC verdict ensures greater roles commensurate with individual merit and aptitude of women officers. Granting permanent commission (PC) and command positions for women officers is a watershed moment and success “against stereotypical mind-set and attitude,