India’s Supreme Court has ruled in favour of equal rights in the armed forces, enforcing the government grants permanent commission and command positions to women officers.
With this judgement, women will be eligible for the same promotions, ranks, benefits and pension as men.
It’s a landmark ruling for women officers that signals a shift towards gender parity in the traditionally male field.
Until now, women officers have been inducted into the army through short service commissions, which only allows them to serve for 10 to 14 years. Permanent commission has been available to some women, but only in the army’s legal and education wings.
The ruling comes after the Indian government told the court that women officers were not physically and psychologically suitable to hold permanent commissions in the armed forces.
“Women officers must deal with pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families and may not be well suited to the life of a soldier in the armed forces,” the government stated
The government also argued against appointing women officers to commanding roles.
“The composition of rank and file being male, and predominantly drawn from rural background, with prevailing societal norms, the troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command,” it said.
The Supreme Court countered the government’s sentiment, urging a change of mindset was necessary to bring about equality.
“To cast aspersion on their abilities on the ground of gender is an affront not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army,” the court said.
“The time has come for a realization that women officers in the army are not adjuncts to a male dominated establishment whose presence must be ‘tolerated’ within narrow confines.”
Aishwarya Bhati, the lawyer who represented female officers in the court, said this ruling is a watershed moment for women.
“These battles are watershed moments not just for women in the Indian army, but for women across the world.”