Open the doors

The decision of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), a central security force, to recruit women in the officers’ cadre is yet another recognition of the ability of women to do the difficult tasks which have been considered to be exclusively in the male domain.

The selected women officers will also be inducted in combat roles.

The SSB is the second largest border guard organisation of the country which is deployed along Nepal and Bhutan borders. It was the first force to recruit women in the lower ranks.

Some other security forces like the BSF, the CISF and the CRPF had followed it and had recruited women as officers.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) which guards the China border is the only border force which has kept its doors closed for women officers.

It has been a long fight for women who wanted to join the armed forces, including the paramilitary forces.

More progress has been made in the induction of women in paramilitary forces but in the bigger three forces of the army, the navy and the air force, progress has been slow.

There was no recruitment of women, except in the medical stream, till two decades ago but short service commission was offered in 1992.

Since then the three services have offered permanent commission in some branches, subject to conditions.

There has been an increase in the number of women officers in the last few years.

But combat roles are still denied to them.

The defence ministry has recently said any proposal to recruit them in such roles is not under consideration.

But there are many countries which do not discriminate against women in any position in the armed forces. Even in Pakistan women serve as fighter pilots in the air force.

The performance of women in the roles they have been assigned in the services or the paramilitary forces has not been below that of men. It is generally the entrenched notions and prejudices in the male-dominated establishment that is making the progress slow.

The use of technology has reduced the importance of physical strength in most military tasks.

Sometimes the forces had to be nudged by the courts to give women the roles they deserve.

All the forces are experiencing a shortage of officers and there is no reason why women should be in disfavour for some roles.

Decisions like those of the SSB should give the process a further push.

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