Small Steps to Make Indian Defence Gender Equal

“Not all women wear pearls and sensible shoes to work. Some wear dog tags and combat boots.”

Following the appointment of Smt Nirmala Sitharaman as India’s first full time female defence minister, and flagging off India’s first all women navy crew circumnavigation around the world, the army announced that it is working on a proposal for inducting women into the military police. The role of the military police includes policing cantonments and army establishments, preventing breach of rules and regulations by soldiers, maintaining movement of soldiers as well as logistics during peace and war, handling prisoners of war and extending aid to civil police whenever required.

The proposal is very significant as for the first time, women will be inducted in the military’s non-officer cadre, albeit in a non-combat role. With a yearly intake of 52 personnel, the plan is to induct a total of 800 women for this.

Lieutenant General Kumar said women were required in the Corps of Military Police (CMP) to investigate gender-specific allegations and crime. The armed forces account for around 3,500 women officers, all of whom are in non-combat roles. Women were allowed to join the military as officers outside the medical stream for the first time in 1992.

The move to induct women comes at a time when India’s first female pilots are preparing to fly warplanes after they complete the last leg of their training later this month. In the navy, women are still not permitted to serve in submarines and warships, while the army bars them from front-line ground combat positions and tank units.

There are many long standing stereotypes and impediments in the rise of women in armed forces. The perception of women being the weaker sex, coupled with serious lack of infrastructure, are reason enough for policy makers across the world to not permit the inclusion of women in combat roles. In such a scenario, we would like to extend our congratulations to the Indian army for paving the way for the inclusion of more women in the defence services.