New Delhi: India said on Friday said women will play a greater role in its armed forces, which are in the process of opening up more streams for them to change their profile as a male-dominated institution.
Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony told reporters here that he had asked the three service chiefs to “open up” more streams for women and they are in the process of identifying the possibilities.
“Recently, two months back, in a meeting of the services chiefs, I told them…now you have to open up more. Now they are processing the possibility of opening up more streams in the three services for lady officers,” Antony said on the sidelines of the flagging-in of an Indian Air Force (IAF) women’s mountaineering team that has successfully conquered the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.
“There was a time (when) armed forces were a closed door… only for male domination. Gradually things changed and two years back, we have decided to give permanent commission to lady officers in seven streams of the armed forces,” he said.
Noting that the process of increasing the role of women in the armed forces has already started, Antony said, “So, the momentum will gather in the years to come…things are moving. Instead of the seven streams, more streams will be opened up for lady officers in the armed forces.”
Earlier, at the flag-in function, Antony said he was “happy” to learn the IAF women’s team successfully hoisted the national flag “on the top of the world” and that he was “most pleased” that three of the seven IAF personnel, who conquered Mount Everest were women officers.
Pointing to the “courage, physical strength, stamina and mental toughness” needed to scale Mount Everest, he said, “It is most heartening to see that IAF is providing equal opportunities to women officers to participate in adventure sports like mountaineering. Earlier, such sports were considered to be largely a domain of the males.”
“Women officers have risen to the challenge and come out with flying colors, only to prove to the world that they are no less than men in any way. I hope this achievement will be yet another step in giving more representation to women in more streams of our armed forces and the society, in general,” he added.
The 1.4-million-strong armed forces have about 2,000 women officers in their ranks. The army counts 2.5 per cent women in its ranks, the navy 3 per cent and the IAF over 7 per cent.
The services, till 2008, offered only a short service commission to women, and that too only in non-combat roles, though they could rise up to the rank of lieutenant general or equivalent in the medical services.
In 2009, the government opened up certain select non-combat streams such as education, law, signals, ordnance, and air traffic control in the three services to offer permanent commission for women officers after they completed 14 years of short service commission.