Indian Army to allow women in combat roles soon

05 June 2017

The Indian Army will soon allow women in combat roles, marking a major transformation in the rather conservative military that only last year allowed women to become fighter pilots in the Air Force.

Army chief Bipin Rawat said on Sunday that to begin with, women will be recruited for positions in the military police, but that the process to offer combat roles to women was moving fast.

While physical strength and stamina were often cited as reasons for keeping women away from combat roles, those arguments do not hold now as women have proved their mettle in various fronts, including as fighter pilots.

Also, at least 16 countries now allow women soldiers to fight along with their male counterparts, breaking the gender barrier .

Once the process is over and women are selected for combat role in the Army, India will join the list of select countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain Sweden, The US and the UK.

Canada had opened up all military positions to women since 1989, except the submarine role, that was opened a bit late in 2000. Women now constitute 15.1 per cent of Canadian military.

Women have played active roles in the US military with direct combat roles since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2002, especially since January 2013 when the US military officially lifted a ban on female soldiers serving in combat roles and said anyone qualified should get a chance to fight on the front lines of war regardless of their sex.

Australia also opened all employment categories in Australian defence force to women who were serving in the ADF since January 2013. All women serving members of the ADF are now entitled to apply for a career in a combat role, provided they meet the requirements.

In July 2016, UK Prime Minister David Cameron lifted a ban on women serving in close combat units in the British military, the BBC reported.

In May that year, the ministry of defence published a paper on the role of women in ground close combat, saying ''opening GCC roles to women will maximise the talent available to defence and deliver equality of opportunity for all service personnel''.

Apart from these countries, several European nations allow women in the combat roles.

All French women can serve in the country's military except on submarines and in the riot-control gendarmerie. In 2006, 1.7 per cent of combat infantry comprised women and 19 per cent of French military personnel were female, the British survey found.

Women first joined German combat units in 2001 following a ruling by the European Court of Justice, which said preventing women from combat roles was against the principles of gender equality.

The Israeli defence force began incorporating women in combat positions since 1995.

Dutch women are allowed in close combat roles.

New Zealand has no restrictions on roles for women in its defence force, says the UK survey. They can serve in the infantry, armour and artillery divisions as per a 2001 llegislation.

Norwegian law provides for equal opportunity for men and women in military under a law passed in 1985. Norway is also the first Nato country to allow women in all combat functions, including submarines.

Poland allows women in close combat roles in all services of the military.

Romania does not discriminate between Romanian men and women with regard to combat roles.

In Spain, the armed forces personnel law passed in May 1999 eliminated gender discrimination and women were allowed to join all positions in any service.

Sweden lifted all gender restrictions to any positions in the Swedish military, including in combat.

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