India is among a handful of countries where all fighting roles are open to female applicants.
In a radical move towards gender parity in one of the world’s most male-dominated profession, the Indian Coast Guard became the first force to deploy female officers in combat roles on board ships patrolling the country’s maritime zone near the borders with Pakistan.
The women officers – assistant commandants Anuradha Shukla, Sneha Kathyat, Shirin Chandran and Vasundhara Chouksey – received training for one year at Indian Coast Guard station at Mandapam, Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu.
They now patrol (in hovercrafts) coastal areas bordering Pakistan and Bangladesh, including Jakhau in Gujarat and Haldia in West Bengal.
A total of 18 hovercrafts are in service, attached to units in Okha and Jakhua in Gujarat, Mumbai in Maharashtra, Mandapam in Tamil Nadu, and Haldia in West Bengal.
These women officers are trained to deal with all types of situation including interception of suspicious activity boats like the MV Kuber, in which terrorists carried out the 26/11 terror attacks.
The decision to deploy women officers in combat roles marks a significant shift in policies in Indian Navy, which earlier does not allow women to sail on board its ships.
In line with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on gender sensitivity, defence ministry has started working out (how) to assign combat role for women in the armed forces.
Following this, the Air Force took the first steps towards bringing women into fighting roles and approved air force plans for female pilots to fly warplanes from June 2017 on a three-year experimental basis.
Women’s rights activists welcomed the move but said that bringing real gender parity into the armed forces would be a slow process.