Indian President Pranab Mukherjee announced on Tuesday that his country’s armed forces will open all combat positions to women, in every section of the army, navy and air force. The Indian military, one of the largest in the world, is joining the few countries (including Australia, Germany, Israel and recently, the United States) where women are allowed to take on combat roles. “My government has approved the induction of women as short service commission officers and as fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force. In the future, my government will induct women in all the fighter streams of our armed forces,” Mukherjee said, adding: “In our country ‘Shakti’, which means power, is the manifestation of female energy. This Shakti defines our strength.”
The Indian military only started recruiting women to non-medical positions in 1992, and at this point just 2.5 percent of the over one million employees are women, most of them working in administration, intelligence or medical positions. While women’s rights activists praised the president’s announcement, they also emphasized that real gender parity in the armed forces would probably take some time.
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