Women in Indian Armed Forces

March 8 is celebrated as Women’s Day across the world. Since the beginning of the feminist movement over a century ago, the fight to create equal spaces for women in all public spheres is still on. As more and more fields are opening up for women today, their visibility and recognition in different domains is also increasing. A shining example of this is the Indian armed forces where the role of women was limited to medical profession till 1992 before the doors were thrown open for them to enter as regular officers in aviation, logistics, law, engineering and executive cadres.

A number of young women apply for entry into the armed forces and their numbers have increased steadily over the years.

Here’s a look at eight most eminent women in the armed forces who have inspired and motivated young Indian women to believe that sky is the limit.

Punita Arora: Decorated with 15 medals in a career spanning 36 years, Punita Arora is the first Indian woman to hold the second highest rank in the Indian armed forces, Lieutenant General of Indian Armed Forces, and the first Vice admiral of Indian Navy.

Padmavathy Bandopadhyay: She joined the Indian Air Force back in 1968, and earned the distinction of becoming the first woman Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force.

Nivedita Choudhary: Flight Lieutenant Nivedita Choudhary is the first woman from
the Indian Air Force (IAF) to scale the Mt. Everest.

Divya Ajith: She was the first woman in the Indian Army to be selected for the ‘Sword of Honour’, which is the highest award given to a cadet of the Officers’ Training Academy.

Ganeve Lalji: Lieutenant Ganeve Lalji was the first woman to be appointed as a key aide to an Army Commander.

Gunjan Saxena: Flight Officer Gunjan Saxena made history by becoming the first female IAF officer to fly in combat zone during the Kargil war. She was eventually awarded with the Shaurya Vir Award.

Teji Uppal: Squadron leader Teji Uppal completed a rare feat when she landed an aircraft with twin-engine turboprop at Daulat Beg Oldie, which is an advanced landing ground (ALG) at 15,400 feet above sea level and a few kilometers away from the Line of Actual Control in Leh.

Mitali Madhumita: In February 2011, Mitali Madhumita became India’s first female officer to get the Sena Medal for gallantry.

Why do Women  Refrain from Joining Armed Forces?

However, many women are opting out of this esteemed profession within few years of joining. Why is this so? Some of the reasons are lack of basic facilities while on duty, no role in combat operations, no permanent commission even after 14 years of service as well as biased attitude of male colleagues.

While there are some practical considerations about national security because of which women are kept away from combative positions, efforts must be continued to make the armed forces a more gender-sensitive profession and accommodate the needs of its women cadre. At present, it looks like the battle is half won.