Empowerement of Women in Defense Forces- A Constitutional Perspective

“No struggle can ever succeed without women participation side by side with men. There are two powers in the world. One is the sword, one is the pen. There is a third power, stronger than both, that of women”. -Malala Yousafzai.

Women, a personification of Shakti, is automatically related to empowerment of women in forces. Constitution is not to be construed as a mere law, but as the machinery by which laws are made. The Constitution is a living and organic thing which, of all instruments has the greatest claim to be constructed broadly and liberally. Women empowerment in forces is empowering the women equal to men. It is to bring equality in the army for both male and female in all areas. Women empowerment is very necessary to make the bright future of the country. The most famous saying said by the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is “To awaken the people, it is the women who must bewakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves,the village moves, the nation moves”. In India, to empower the women, first it needs to kill all the demons killing women’s rights and values. The most effective remedy to kill such devils is making women empowered by ensuring the Right to Equality mentioned in the Constitution of India. According to the provisions of the Constitution of India, it is a legal point to grant equality to women in the society in all spheres just like male. They need to be strong, aware and alert every moment for their growth and development in forces. India is a very famous country known for its cultural heritage, traditions, civilisation, religion and geographical features from the ancient time. On the other hand, it is also popular as a male chauvinistic nation. People of India say this country as “Bharat-Mata” however never realised the true meaning of it. Women being “MA” is capable of protecting its child. Bharat-Mata means a mother of every Indian whom we have to save and care always. Empowerment in forces can be viewed as means of creating a social environment in which women are ranked equal to men in order to safeguard nation.

With the formation of the “Indian Military Nursing Service” in 1888, the role of women in the Indian Armed Forces began to take shape. The nurses of the Indian Army served with distinction in World War I. The role of women in the Indian

 Armed Forces was further expanded with the formation of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, which allowed them to serve in primarily non-combatant roles like communications, accounting, administration etc. One member of the corps, Noor Inayat Khan served with distinction as a spy, acquiring a legendary status for her service during World War II. Although the British Indian Army was limited to women towards what were mainly non-combatant roles, it was not the case with the Azad Hind Fauj founded by Subash Chandra Bose. There was a women’s regiment named the Rani of Jhansi Regiment which saw active combat when it fought along the Imperial Japanese Army in Burma. Unlike developed countries like the USA, UK, Canada and Germany, India as a nation isn’t all that experienced with regard to the introduction of women in the armed forces. The first batch of women joined in 1992. Military science is a complex subject and India’s military establishment is now coming to terms with the long-term ramifications of women’s issues involved in the military landscape. Women have been serving in the armed forces of developed countries for a long time and countries like the USA, Israel, Britain and Canada, for instance, have acquired a level of understanding of women’s issues that remains unmatched. The United States, in particular, has played a pioneering role when it comes to the question of inducting women into the armed forces – a mind-boggling 200,000+ American women are on active duty, which literally means 20% of the US armed force’s bench strength.Israel is another country that India’s armed forces can look up to when it comes to the induction of women. Although, women are not allotted combat duties, yet, they have carved a niche for themselves in administrative and technical positions. If defence statistics are anything to go by, the Indian Army has 6,807 women and constitutes 0.56 percent of the Army, the Indian Air Force has 1,607 women representing 1.08 percent of the Force and the Indian Navy has 704 female officers who constitute 6.5 percent of the Naval Force. If we consider the number of women officers in the three defence establishments, a total of 9,118 women are on active duty, and the best part is that approval has been granted for the induction of 1,700 females as jawans in the Corps of Military Police. There has been a remarkable increase in the number of women deployed in the armed forces during the year 2020 and apart from the Permanent Commission to Women Officers in the category of Judge Advocate General and Army Education Corps, the Government of India has of late has also pronounced the grant of Permanent Commission to Women Officers in all three Services where women are eligible for commission. The first all-women peacekeeping force for the United Nations was in 2007 that consisted of 105 Indian women deployed to Liberia. Women in indian army make up 3% of the army as compared to 4.5% in China, 16% in the United States, 10% in Russia, 40% in North Korea, 5.5% in South Korea where women have taken senior military ranks and the country plans to increase the number of women serving in a senior position to 7% from 5.5% by 2020. In 2013, all combat positions were made available to women in the United States. The United Kingdom as well lifted a ban on women serving in close combat ground roles opening the gateway for them to serve in the elite special forces. In Israel, there has been an increase in women entering the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the last few years. Israel is one of the few countries in the world to have a mandatory military service requirement for women and has a military draft. The other countries with a military draft include Morocco, North Korea, Tunisia, Mali and Eritrea. According to the 2014 UN REPORT, India has the world’s largest young population so a change of mindset towards women is very much needed for the nation today. Its important for India to also introduce conscription of military service equally for both men and women that would instill a sense of belonging, patriotism and pride in the country.

In January 2020, the corps of Indian military police inducted the first batch of women military police to its rank and file that began training for 61 days in basic military training and advanced provost training who will train as per the same conditions, duties and terms pertinent to their male counterparts in Bengaluru, India. This, in fact, shows India is gradually moving for an optimistic change but more needs to be done. The Indian government should realize that the nature of warfare in the future is going to be completely different in contrast to the warfare what India has experienced in the past. For sustained growth, a strong nation like India needs to strengthen its military capability by inducting more women into military keeping in mind the changing domain of the battlefield. In a country like India, which aspires to be an emerging superpower in the future, discrimination on the basis of gender in the armed forces would certainly be a backlog for the country. Women should be considered on par with men in almost every aspect. Institutional and administrative policies such as transfers and maternity leave must be protected and given attention from time to time. There has to be a revamping on India’s attitude towards women, which would help in the overall economic growth, women empowerment and also showcase India in a positive light in the global arena.


In February 2020 the Hon’ble SC(1) of India in the case of Ministry of Defense vs Babita Puniya upheld the claim of women SSC(2) officers to be granted a PC(3) in the Indian Army. After a year, on 25th March 2021 in the case of Lt Col Nitisha vs UOI the SC dealt with the criteria outlined in Babita Puniya for granting of PC to women army officers being purportedly neutral but deemed to be indirectly discriminatory. FACTS:

The Central Govt. according to Babita Puniya, wherein the Court issued several directives concerning the evaluation of female officers set forth the three contentious criteria: firstly, women officers have to clear a certain percentage score, as well as score higher than the lowest-scoring male officer who had previously been awarded a PC; secondly. ACRS(4) were to be included in the grading; and lastly, certain medical requirements had to be met. These criteria’s were contended as on the surface they appeared to be neutral and not discriminate between male and female officials but the women officers had been ineligible for PCs for all of these years.


Concerning the score criteria for PC the court ruled that the given criterion was an arbitrary and could not be compared to that of men and there was no need to include a component of “competitive merit.” PC should be awarded to all women who met the 60 percent cut-off. The ruling stated that, while these restrictions appeared to be neutral on the surface, they were applied in a way that was unjust to women and perpetuated the impacts of previous exclusion.


women empowerment and gender equality, women empowerment has been listed as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. It is also fundamental to all the other 16 goals of the Sustainable Development Goals. Since the past decades, women have come a long way not only in the military sectors but in other sectors such as politics and business as well. Women have reached great heights in almost all fields which were otherwise male centric. Women have been undoubtedly on par with their male counterparts. Indian Government has been putting all efforts to uplift women in the society for the development of the nation as a whole. The process of training women has started from the very roots of the armed forces. Admission of girls in Sainik Schools that train future defense officers, which was initially meant only for boys is evident in the endeavor of government in achieving gender enshrined in the constitution of India. Women’s participation in the Indian Armed Forces has changed drastically in number on a positive note, though there are still huge differences compared to their male counterparts. Although women have now been given permanent commission in the armed forces by the Supreme Court, combat roles are still closed for them. However, there is still a long way to go in achieving equality in the sector in a patriarchal society. There is a need for more policies and frameworks for the induction of women in combat roles as well as an equal number of recruitment of pertinent aim women in the Forces to achieve the equality enshrined in the Constitution of India. With the SC allowing women to appear for NDA EXAM, the reality is quite closer.


I personally believe that apart from military diplomacy where the Indian army is looking for women language interpreters to understand the foreign language while conversing with other nations i.e. military to military and also with the recent pitching by India’s move to boost defence exports to become the world’s largest arms exporters, the armed forces and government of India must step forward to make such decisions in other recruitment arenas as well. •India has produced many infamous women freedom and leaders since time immemorial. In the motherland of Rani of Jhansi, Capt. Laxmi Sehgal, Sarojini Naidu and many others it is a matter of time about creating the feminism power in the Armed Forces as well.

Author: Rashi Agarwal

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