The Centre on Friday decided to induct women into the personnel below officer rank role in the military police, the Defence Ministry announced. This is the first time women will be inducted into a non-combat role in the military police. The move is meant to improve the representation of women in India’s armed forces, the ministry said on Twitter.

The Ministry of Defence said women in these roles will investigate offences like rape, molestation and thefts. They will conduct military operations in cases where the Army needs help from the police.

Women officers will also assist the civilian police and the administration during evacuation operations in villages near the border, and help in controlling refugee influx, especially crowds of women and children.

Women in the personnel below officer rank will frisk female suspects during cordon and search operations, and will oversee ceremonies, police discipline and prisoner of war camps, the government said. It added that the women corps will be inducted in a graded manner, and will eventually comprise 20% of total military police corps.

The Bharatiya Janata Party praised the Centre’s decision. “It’s a huge step towards further empowering women and improving their representation in our armed forces,” the party said on Twitter.

In December, Army Chief Bipin Rawat had opposed the induction of women into combat roles in the military. He claimed that army men, who largely come from small villages, would not be willing to accept a female commander. Rawat also said that the army would not be able to give a woman commanding officer six months of maternity leave.