New Delhi, Feb 17: Women have been playing an important role in the armed forces and even serving in combat roles in countries like Australia, Canada, Israel and New Zealand.
The role of women in the armed forces assumes significance after the Supreme Court delivered a landmark verdict, directing the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the Army within three months.
The apex court also described the government’s argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying them command posts as “disturbing”.
There are 1,653 women officers in the Indian Army, 3.89 per cent of the total number of officers in the force. The Indian Air Force has 6.7 per cent of women officers, while the Indian Navy has highest number of female officers — 13.28 per cent — among the three armed forces.
The US and the United Kingdom are among the latest to lift the curbs and allow women in combat roles.
In 2018, then UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson had announced that women already serving in the Army were able to transfer into infantry roles in the British Army.
Women make up 10.4 per cent of the UK regular armed forces. The Royal Navy has the largest proportion of women serving, with 14 per cent, while the British Army has the lowest with 9.3 per cent.
The US military, too, has lifted a ban on female soldiers serving in combat roles.
The Australian Defence Forces (ADF) opened direct entry for women to all combat roles since January 2016. It has also introduced targets for women in the ADF. By 2023, it is aiming for 25 per cent in the Navy, 15 per cent in the Army and 25 per cent in the Air Force.
Currently, women represent 17.9 per cent of the permanent ADF (21.2 per cent in the Navy, 14.3 per cent in the Army and 22.4 per cent in the Air Force.
All military occupations were open to women in 1989 in the Canadian defence forces, with the exception of submarine service, which opened in 2001.
In 1987, occupations and units with the primary role of preparing for direct involvement in combat on the ground or at sea were still closed to women: infantry, armoured corps, field artillery, air-defence artillery, signals, field engineers, and naval operations, the Canadian armed forces website states.
Women also serve in combat roles in the Israeli armed forces.
“Regardless of those exemptions, many of those exempt from military service do volunteer to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Once enlisted, men are expected to serve for a minimum of 32 months and women are expected to serve for a minimum of 24 months,” the Israeli armed forces website states.
Since 2001, the women serve in the armoured corps of the army, fighter aircraft and navy, including submarines. They do not serve as rifle-toting infantry, though.
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