Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Supreme Court asks government to grant pension to 32 women IAF officers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Permanent Comission

Mains level : Women in Armed Forces


The Supreme Court has ordered the government to grant pension to women officers who fought for 12 years to get reinstatement and permanent commission in the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Women in IAF: A case for Permanent commission

  • History is replete with examples where women have been denied their just entitlements under law and the right to fair and equal treatment in the workplace.
  • The women had been fighting for 12 years for a chance to be considered for permanent commission.
  • The women pointed out to the court’s judgment in Babita Puniya Case.
  • It upheld the right of women short service commission officers to be considered for permanent commission on a par with their men colleagues.

Why males have ever dominated the armed forces?

  • Militaries across the world help entrench hegemonic masculine notions of aggressiveness, strength and heterosexual prowess in and outside their barracks.
  • The military training focuses on creating new bonds of brotherhood and camaraderie between them based on militarized masculinity.
  • This temperament is considered in order to enable conscripts to survive the tough conditions of military life and to be able to kill without guilt.
  • To create these new bonds, militaries construct a racial, sexual, gendered “other”, attributes of whom the soldier must routinely and emphatically reject.

Dimensions of the Issue

  • Gender is not a hindrance: As long as an applicant is qualified for a position, one’s gender is arbitrary. It is easy to recruit and deploy women who are in better shape than many men sent into combat.
  • Combat Readiness: Allowing a mixed-gender force keeps the military strong. The armed forces are severely troubled by falling retention and recruitment rates. This can be addressed by allowing women in the combat role.
  • Effectiveness: The blanket restriction for women limits the ability of commanders in theatre to pick the most capable person for the job.
  • Tradition: Training will be required to facilitate the integration of women into combat units. Cultures change over time and the masculine subculture can evolve too.
  • Cultural Differences & Demographics: Women are more effective in some circumstances than men. Allowing women to serve doubles the talent pool for delicate and sensitive jobs that require interpersonal skills, not every soldier has.

Hurdles for Women

  • Capabilities of women: Although women are equally capable, if not more capable than men, there might be situations that could affect the capabilities of women such as absence during pregnancy and catering to the responsibilities of motherhood, etc.
  • Adjusting with the masculine setup: To then simply add women to this existing patriarchal setup, without challenging the notions of masculinity, can hardly be seen as “gender advancement”.
  • Fear of sexual harassment: Sexual harassment faced by women military officers is a global phenomenon that remains largely unaddressed, and women often face retaliation when they do complain.
  • Gender progressiveness could be an illusion: Women’s inclusion is criticized as just another manoeuvre to camouflage women’s subjugation and service as women’s liberation.
  • Battle of ‘Acceptance’: Acceptance of women in the military has not been smooth in any country. Every army has to mould the attitude of its society at large and male soldiers in particular to enhance acceptability of women in the military.
  • Job Satisfaction: Most women feel that their competence is not given due recognition. Seniors tend to be over-indulgent without valuing their views. They are generally marginalised and not involved in any major decision-making.
  • Doubts about Role Definition: The profession of arms is all about violence and brutality. To kill another human is not moral but soldiers are trained to kill.
  • Physical and Physiological Issues: The natural physical differences in stature, strength, and body composition between the sexes make women more vulnerable to certain types of injuries and medical problems. The natural processes of menstruation and pregnancy make women particularly vulnerable in combat situations.
  • Comfort Level: Most women accepted the fact that their presence amongst males tends to make the environment ‘formal and stiff’. The mutual comfort level between men and women colleagues is often very low.


  • Concern for equality of sexes or political expediency should not influence defence policies.
  • Armed forces have been constituted with the sole purpose of ensuring defence of the country and all policy decisions should be guided by this overriding factor.
  • All matters concerning defence of the country have to be considered in a dispassionate manner.
  • No decision should be taken which even remotely affects the cohesiveness and efficiency of the military.

Way ahead

  • Induction of women into armed forces should be on the basis of their abilities and not on the basis of their gender.
  • The training for both women and men should be standardized to eliminate differentiation based on physical capabilities.
  • The career aspects and opportunities for women need to be viewed holistically keeping the final aim in focus.


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