The Army’s decision to induct women as soldiers in the Military Police is a small but significant step on the road to gender equity. Till now, women were allowed in select corps of the Army such as medical, legal and engineering as officers. The Military Police are tasked with maintaining order in Army establishments and cantonments, handling prisoners of war, among other duties. In a country where the number of women in the workforce has plunged alarmingly in recent years, the latest initiative amounts to opening a new door of opportunity. Such moves help break the age-old stereotypes that hamper women empowerment. When women become a part of the Army, it acts as a great demonstration effect for other women to rise from centuries of exploitation and take up professions, traditionally thought to belong with men. Women will be inducted in a graded manner to eventually comprise 20 per cent of the total Corps of Military Police. Instead of getting caught in the usual tokenism, this move must be followed through and a clear road map must be drawn up to induct women across the board, covering all roles and ranks in the Army. Already, the armies of the United States, the UK, Israel, Canada, Australia, Denmark and other countries have women soldiers in combat roles. In this time and age when women are competing with men in every field and proving their mettle, there is no justification to keep them out of combat roles. The Army’s announcement is in line with the Indian Air Force’s earlier decision to induct women into the fighter jet stream.
This path-breaking shift is a tribute to women achievers and will make the Armed Forces more inclusive, reflecting the nation’s changing aspirations. The sceptics have long argued that women are not suitable for combat roles as they require greater physical strength, aggression and toughness, particularly in war situations. However, women have not only been a part of the Armed Forces but have also shown a desire to move away from traditional roles that were limited to second-tier jobs such as legal, medical and educational. There has been a justifiable demand to treat them on a par with their male counterparts in all spheres of activity. Not every woman may have the physical strength and stamina to become a jawan or an Air Force fighter pilot, but the same argument holds true for men as well. The feedback from the first batch of female fighter trainee pilots shows that women are equally capable of performing the most gruelling tasks. However, no exceptions must be made to women in meeting the qualifying standards or in the training programmes while ensuring that there is no discrimination.