SC allowing women to sit for NDA test is a welcome push for a substantive gender reset in the armed forces

Source: Indian Express

Relevance: Understand evolving notions of gender parity

Synopsis: Recent guidelines by SC to allow women candidates to appear for the NDA (National Defence Academy) exam is a welcome step in gender parity. We need to understand all of its dimensions.

SC decision to allow women to sit for the NDA exam is one step further towards push to armed forces to bridge the gender discrimination gap in the armed forces. Even last year, SC asked the government to grant permanent commission to women officers of the army serving under the Short Service Commission, (SSC).

What is the present scenario?
  • Women were eligible for entry into the army through the Officers’ Training Academy and Indian Military Academy.
  • NDA, which recruits cadets fresh out of school (between the ages of 16 and 19), remained an all-male bastion.
Read more: ITBP inducts first women officers on combat service
Impact of the new moves

SC decision to allow women for the NDA exam comes along with the centre decision to admit girls to Sainik schools. Both decisions will lay a roadmap for substantive change.

  1. It has the potential of attracting more women to professional life in the military
  2. It will create a wider pool of girls and young women trained for long, ambitious careers in the uniformed services
  3. It can help re-engineer the institutions of the armed forces, which are by default conceived of as default male spaces.
What is the counter view?

In Ministry of Defence vs Babita Puniya & Others, there were arguments over women being unsuitable for military life. The reason behind that is:

  • They have to deal with pregnancy, motherhood, domestic obligation towards children and family etc.
  • Their physical capability for combat exercise is considered lesser.
  • An all-male environment would have to moderate itself in the presence of women.
Read more: Arms and the Women
What will be the future challenges

Infusion of women cadets might bring some challenges of infrastructure to both Sainik Schools and the NDA

  • Change in the training modules, more hiring of women teachers
  • Inclusion of gender sensitisation programmes
Way Forward:

There is urgent and necessary work required if institutions are to comply with constitutional requirements of non-discrimination and equality. The defence establishment must also give women, their due, as equal citizens of constitutional democracy.

Read more: SC rules in favour of permanent commission for women officers in Navy


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