20 Mar 2023  |   04:54am IST

Women Army officers now in a commanding position

The Army recently cleared the names of first batch of women officers for the senior command course at the Army War College at the end of March.

This means that the Force has set the ball rolling for giving command positions to its women officers.

In a bid for gender parity in officer cadre, the Indian Army has assigned fifty women officers to command operational units in forward areas.

This development comes a month after 108 women officers of Lieutenant Colonel rank were promoted to Colonel rank and given a permanent commission.

These women officers come from various arms and services like The Engineers, Signals, Army Air Defence, Intelligence Corps, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, and Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME).

Until now, women officers from the Army Medical Corps used to command field Hospitals, military hospitals, and other medical establishments but they were not allowed to command positions in operational roles.

It was only after 2020 that the army opened doors for women officers to get a permanent commission, which allowed women officers to command army units.

This would be a major step forward in terms of gender equality. This decision will also encourage more women to join the Indian Army and will help to promote diversity and inclusivity within the organization.

In 2019, the Army changed its rules allowing Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers to opt for permanent commission who would have otherwise retired after 14 years of service.

With the landmark Supreme Court judgment of 2020, permanent commission was granted to women officers with retrospective effect.

This opened the doors for their further growth and promotions in the Army, which has been of late opening leadership and higher management courses for women.

An officer in the Army is promoted to the rank of Colonel only after serving between 16 and 18 years, based on certain criteria such as annual confidential reports and various courses.

Women officers who were inducted into the Army were inducted as SSC officers in 1992 and in the years after did not have the choice to opt for permanent commission.

For other arms and services, women could not become permanent cadres, and had to retire much before they completed the service period that is mandatory to become a Colonel.

Women are still not eligible in core combat arms such as Infantry, Mechanized Infantry and Armoured Corps as Army is not open to women fighting wars at the borders as foot soldiers. 

Much of this resistance stems from past instances of male soldiers being taken as prisoners of war and tortured by the enemy.

However, the Army has recently decided to open the Corps of Artillery, a combat support arm, to women.

Role of women in army is not a new phenomenon. Their role in the army has been chronicled from culture to culture. 

There are many instances in history where women have taken leading role in the command in their respective armies. 

The role of women in the Indian army began when the “Indian Military Nursing Service” was formed during the British Rule. Between 1914–45, British Indian Army nurses fought in World War I (1914–18) and World War II (1939-45), where 350 British Indian Army nurses either died or were taken prisoner of war or declared missing in action. 

 On 1 November 1958, the Army Medical Corps became the first unit of the Indian Army to grant regular commissions to women.

However, the basic questions remain to be whether the women commanding officers would be able to do their jobs in field as effectively as that of men folk, especially at the battle field. 

In contrary to any other jobs, let’s face it; the army is ultimately meant to fight direct combat which is place of destruction and killing. No mercy anywhere. Whoever is sharper and quicker to kill first is the winner or survivor, there is no second chance.

 Therefore the commanding officer, despite his or her corps, will have to train his/her army to be able to destroy the enemy. It is a fact that other than six fighting arms other services are less exposed to the brutality.

 We have recent incidences of hand to hand fight in Galwan Valley and Arunachal Pradesh. Women commanders must be tough enough to lead their men.

The most important part is to break the male prejudice against taking women as military leader as it has been a long-time preserve of male bastion. This prejudice can only be removed by showing exemplary command potential by women commanding officers.

There are definite social responsibilities women have to bear which may keep them away from the place of work for a longer time. This may make the issue little more different and additional load may fall on male officers of the team.

But the law makers should be complemented, as also the enthusiastic women soldiers, for breaking the ice and going into most coveted service in protecting the country and demolishing the enemy. 


Iddhar Udhar