The Indian Army will soon open up combat positions for women, Army Chief Bipin Rawat said on Sunday, reported PTI. Rawat said that the process to allow women in combat roles, currently reserved for men, was “moving fast” and initially women would be recruited as military police.
“I am looking at women coming as jawans. I am going to start it soon. Firstly, we will start with women as military police jawans,” Rawat said. He added that the matter is being taken up with the government.
Military police are expected to police the cantonments and army establishments, prevent breach of rules and regulations by soldiers, maintaining movement of soldiers as well as logistics during peace and war, handling prisoners of war and extending aid to civil police whenever required.
Rawat said that women will have to “show grit and strength in taking up challenges in combat role and shattering the glass ceiling.”
Women are currently allowed in several select areas in the Army, including in medical, legal, educational, signals and engineering wings, but combat roles have so far been unavailable to them. The Army in the past has cited operational and logistical concerns for the restriction.
If the move to allow women in combat roles bears fruit, India will join a select group of countries – Germany, Australia, Canada, the US, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France , Norway, Sweden and Israel.
Last year, the Indian Air Force had created history by inducting three women – Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh – as fighter pilots, after the government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis. Their performance will be evaluated before more women fighter pilots are inducted.
The Indian Navy is currently deliberating a policy of having women onboard its ships.
In June 2015, the defence minister at the time, Manohar Parrikar, had clarified that India had no plans to induct women in combat operations due to “apprehensions about their safety”. However, he said that they would be “encouraged to join other operational areas [of the armed forces] with their inclusion being stepped up in phases”. The same year, a Scroll.in report had said that women make up only 5% of military officers in the Indian Army, and hold only temporary ten-year jobs.