New Delhi: The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, on Thursday said that distinction between the roles of men and women in war is blurring.
CDS Rawat's remarks came during his welcome address at a webinar organised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on 'Role of Women in the Armed Forces'. "Today, distinction between the role of men and women in warfighting is blurring. Women have proved their mettle in combat roles such as fighter pilots, paratroopers, submarines. They will continue to do so in future, too," stated CDS Rawat.
"Women today are serving the armed forces across the world. Women soldiers' training in the Indian Army has been hard and it has helped them in good strength to perform their tasks in various terrains," he added.
The international webinar was hosted by the Ministry of Defence in video conference mode and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh delivered the inaugural address at the webinar.
The conference was originally planned with the physical presence of the representatives of the member states in the year 2020, however, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was conducted via video conferencing, as despite the pandemic, the interaction between the SCO member states remains important.
Role of women
The Government of India has recognised women as proud and essential members of the Indian Defence forces and the potential they bring to the Armed Forces. Accordingly, in the last seven years, the Government has taken several steps to bring in more opportunities for women in the Indian Defence forces as well as create equality in service conditions for women and men. Today, women are greatly empowered within the Indian Defence Forces, whether it is the Indian Army, Indian Navy or the Indian Air Force.
The Centre recently informed the Supreme Court that the Armed Forces have agreed to induct women into permanent commission through the National Defence Academy (NDA) and a decision to this effect was taken by the government on Tuesday evening.
Women make up a miniscule 0.56% of India's 1.4 million army personnel. Their representation is somewhat better in the air force (1.08%) and navy (6.5%), as per a BBC report.
Among the reasons given for this are the low acceptance of women in leadership roles among male soldiers, the vulnerability of women soldiers to sexual harassment, physical fitness limitations, and the lack of infrastructure such as separate sleeping arrangements and toilets, as per a Hindustan Times report.
Experts say women have ended up doing almost everything except combat roles: they are still not allowed to serve in infantry and the armoured corps. In 2019 the government agreed to give permanent commissions to women but said this would only apply to those officers who had served less than 14 years, citing physical limitations of older women officers.