HC order good for women in forces

HC order good for women in forces

The Delhi High Court ruling that the Indian Navy must grant permanent commission to women is another step towards achieving better gender equality and justice in the service.

Armed forces have been known for their reluctance, and even hostility, to recruitment of women at all levels. Women were appointed only in some areas like nursing. This was more because enough number of qualified men were not available for such posts. But the position has changed since the 1990s when the first batch of women short service commission officers joined the army.

The progress since then has been slow and incremental. Some steps were taken, more on the prodding of the judiciary than for a sense of the need for them. The Army and the Air Force had granted permanent commission to women in 2010  on judicial orders.

The Navy did not think of doing it, and has now got to do it on court orders.
The order was passed on a petition by 19 officers who had completed 14 years of short service commission but had been denied permanent commission.

If they could complete 14 years of commission successfully, there is no reason why they could not be considered fit for permanent commission. They would not be entitled to many benefits like pension if they did not complete 20 years of service.

As they spent a good part of their lives in the service, many of them would not be able to find other jobs. Male officers who underwent the same training as they did and worked for the same number of years would get permanent commission. This is, as the court noted, a case of gross gender discrimination and injustice. With the court paving the way for their permanent commission, they will now be able to work till the age of 54 and avail opportunities for professional advancement.


But the armed forces still have a long way to go to give equal treatment to women. The permanent commission now available to them is limited only to some branches. The idea that women are not suitable for the forces is still entrenched in  the leadership.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently ruled out recruitment of women in combat roles. Women in other countries have proved their capability in such roles.

The representation of women as such is woefully low in all sections of the forces, though many women are keen to join the services.

The forces have a severe shortage of officers. There is need for sea change in the prevalent attitudes.

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