Expand Space for Women in Close Combat Roles - The New Indian Express

Expand Space for Women in Close Combat Roles

Published: 15th April 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 15th April 2014 12:28 AM

Breaking the male bastion in the five-decade-old Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), the government has approved recruitment of young women as “combat officers” in the second-largest border guarding force. The new female officers will be recruited by the Union Public Service Commission as part of the Central Armed Police Forces Exam-2014. Women officers of SSB will now get a chance to serve at the Indian frontiers with Bhutan and Nepal. The women up to the age of 25 will be directly recruited as assistant commandants. SSB will have trained women in the ground by the end of 2015. The SSB, in 2007, was the first to recruit women in junior ranks of constables but since then, the contingents were being commanded by male officers.

Till now, women could only don the combat uniform in the officer cadre in three other central security forces, the Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force and the Border Security Force (BSF). The BSF was allowed to recruit women officers last year and as part of women empowerment in the premier forces, it was thought apt to induct women in combat ranks in this border force. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force is the only paramilitary organisation denying women  combat roles.

Under current rules, women can serve on the front line in the armed forces but are banned from close combat roles. Allowing women to become combat officers in paramilitary forces can be a step towards opening greater role for them in our armed forces. Last year, the US lifted its ban on women serving in such roles, joining countries such as Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden. The Pentagon on Tuesday announced its schedule for integrating women into front-line combat by 2016. Indian armed forces have traditionally discouraged women in combat positions so far. It is time they changed their approach.

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