Women in armed forces: A look at their roles in armies around the world

According to National Geographic, at least 16 industrialized nations permit women to serve on the frontline or in combat roles

Cadets pose for photos as they celebrate after a passing-out parade at Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai. PTI

With the Supreme Court's landmark verdict allowing women officers in the Army to be granted permanent commission and command postings, a pertinent question that arises is whether India is the only country to do so or is it far behind its counterparts.

Women undertaking frontline combat roles in armies has been a contentious issue around the world.

According to National Geographic, at least 16 industrialized nations permit women to serve on the frontline or in combat roles.

It was only in 2018 that the UK military lifted its ban on women serving in close combat ground roles and allowed them to serve in elite special forces.

Women have served in the US military in noncombat roles and in 2016 the United States lifted Pentagon's ban on allowing women in frontline combat roles.

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In the early 1990s, women started serving in aviation and naval combat in the US Army and in 2019, around 2,906 women personnel held positions in ground combat, a position that was opened to them only in 2016.

People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) of China, the world's largest Army, has a ground force consisting of approximately five per cent or less women officers. This means that out of its 1.4 million troops, only 53,000 are women officers.

Another neighbour of India, Pakistan, has 3,400 women serving in its armed forces, according to estimates by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Countries like Canada, Denmark and Israel opened combat roles to women in the mid and late 80s. In 1989, Canada allowed women in combat roles, Denmark has had a total inclusion policy since 1988 and Israel in 1985 started recruiting women into combat positions.

In the mid-1980s, Norway became the first North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) country to let women join the forces in all combat capacity.

Short Service Commission women officers Anjali Bisht, Seema Singh and Sandhya Yadav flash victory sign outside the Supreme Court. PTI

India's ally Israel has been inducting both men and women into military service ever since it was created in 1948. Except for exemptions during motherhood or religious conviction, women are expected to serve in the military for two years. However, it does not allow women to hold command positions.

According to IISS, women comprise 10 per cent of the Russian Armed Forces. It was only in 1992 that women were first inducted in the Indian Army and as the Supreme Court noted, their entry ever since has had a "chequered history".

Initially, under the Army Act of 1950, women were ineligible for employment in the regular army except in such corps, departments or branches which the central government may specify by way of notifications.

This was lifted almost after 42 years of the Act, by way of a government notification in January 1992, making women eligible for appointment as officers in five branches.

After the apex court's directive on Monday, within three months all serving SSC women officers will have to be considered for Permanent Commissions (PCs) irrespective of them having crossed 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.