At the parade, Nari Shakti

  • It was encouraging to see women leading many of the contingents in New Delhi’s 74th Republic Day parade. Their presence was encouraging and something that future generations of girls should strive to emulate. While much was made of the induction of female fighter pilots, it is unclear how many more have been added since then.
  • The parade was dominated by Nari shakti: The 74th Republic Day parade was dominated by Nari Shakti, as women officers led the marching contingents of the armed forces, CRPF, Akash missile system, and Army’s Daredevil team, as well as the first ever women armed police battalion: In a first, the marching contingent of the CRPF, which has the distinction of raising the world’s first women-armed police battalion, was entirely made up of women this time.
  • Border security forces women: For the first time, BSF women soldiers in colourful uniforms stationed along the desert border with Pakistan marched as part of the camel contingent.

Light on whether induction of women is mere tokenism?

  • Opportunities for women: One of the most significant recent developments is the expansion of opportunities for girls and young women in Sainik schools and the National Defence Academy.
  • As there are more women on the field, there are fewer logistical issues: Once they put on the uniform and there are a lot more women on the field, the logistical issues will fade away.
  • Promotion to the rank of colonel: The recent news that women are being considered for promotion to the rank of colonel and, ultimately, command units is extremely empowering.
  • The military continues to be an excellent example: the military is an excellent place for women to work, and it is the military’s responsibility to uphold that faith.

The Importance of Women in Command

  • Leadership opportunity: Despite working at the grassroots level as junior officers, women officers have previously been denied the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership abilities because they were not eligible to command a unit.
  • Gender parity: Most importantly, it equalises female officers with male counterparts.
  • Earlier promotions were staff appointments, which are more administrative in nature, rather than command appointments, in which an officer commands troops on the ground.
  • Benefits after a permanent commission: Women officers with a longer career in the Army will be considered for promotions, including to the rank of Colonel and higher.

How are women still discriminated?

  • Women are still barred from serving in core combat arms such as infantry, mechanised infantry, and armoured corps.
  • The Indian Army does not allow women to fight as foot soldiers in border wars.
  • Much of this opposition stems from previous incidents in which male soldiers were taken as prisoners of war and tortured by the enemy.
  • However, the Army has recently decided to allow women to join the Corps of Artillery, a combat support arm.

What else should be done?

  • Promoting Gender Equality at the Parade: Having women’s contingents at the parade with the Nari Shakti theme is a fantastic idea. However, we must avoid referring to this as an opportunity that has been provided to them.
  • Obstacles to gender equality in frontline forces: The slow and steady induction of women into ranks below the officer level in a paramilitary force like the Assam Rifles is a long way from allowing women to serve on the front lines, as in the Kumaon Regiment, for example. The regiment’s war cry is Kalika mata ki jai, but that’s where it ends.

Way ahead

  • The military, like any other institution, is a reflection of society, and it, too, is subject to reform and change for the advancement of society as a whole.
  • We must advocate for this while also supporting Captain Shikha Sharma, the first woman in the Daredevil squad, who displayed her abilities so effortlessly at the parade.
  • Finally, the Republic Day parade did a good job of honouring Nari Shakti. However, much more needs to be done to include women in the force the day after R-Day.
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