Women should get their due in armed forces: Antony

April 29th, 2008 - 12:04 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Defence Minister A.K. Antony Monday said it was “high time” women were granted “their due” in the armed forces. “I have given an assurance in the Rajya Sabha that the ministry will look into the aspect of granting permanent commissions to women in the non-combatant stream to begin with,” he said while inaugurating the five-day biannual Army Commanders’ Conference here.

“It is a commitment that we all must honour and endeavour to achieve this objective on priority,” he added.

The issue of granting women permanent commissions in the armed forces is a highly emotive issue. A former Indian Army vice chief, Lt. Gen. S. Pattabhiraman, was rapped on the knuckles for declaring that the services “could do without them”.

Pranab Mukherjee, who was then the defence minister, had asked the service chiefs to discuss the issue and submit a report to him. The service chiefs had concluded that “the time was not right” for granting women permanent commissions in the non-combatant and combatant arms.

Women are currently eligible for permanent commissions only in the medical, nursing and dental services of the armed forces. They are also eligible for short service commissions in these services as also in the support arms of the armed forces.

Currently, 5,137 women officers serve in the armed forces. They include 4,101 in the Indian Army, 784 in the Indian Air Force, and 252 in the Indian Navy.

In the army, women serve in support arms like the Corps of Signals, Army Ordinance Corps, the Corps of Electronic and Mechanical Engineers, and the Army Service Corps.

In the Indian Air Force, women are inducted in all streams, barring the fighter stream. In the Indian Navy, there are restrictions on posting women officers aboard ships and submarines.

Most militaries worldwide induct women but only a few allow them to perform active combat roles. Among these countries are Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland.

Countries like Britain and Israel allow women to serve in combat arms positions like artillery roles but exclude them from infantry units. The US allows women in most combat flying positions.

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