Providing equal opportunity to women

Paper: II

For Prelims:

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context of News:

  • India continues to struggle to provide its women with equal opportunity. On international measures of gender equality, India scores low on women’s overall health and survival and ability to access economic opportunities.

Policy/Steps of Government to provide equal Opportunities to women:

  • Swadhar and Short Stay Homes to provide relief and rehabilitation to destitute women and women in distress.
  • Working Women Hostels for ensuring safe accommodation for working women away from their place of residence.
  • Support to Training and Employment Program for Women (STEP) to ensure sustainable employment and income generation for marginalised and asset-less rural and urban poor women across the country.
  • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) to provide micro-finance services to bring about the socio-economic upliftment of poor women.
  • National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) to strengthen the overall processes that promote all-round Development of Women
  • Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme for Children of Working Mothers (including single mother) to provide day care facilities for running a crèche of 25 children in the age group 0-6 years from families having monthly income of less than Rs 12,000.
  • One Stop Centre to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence.

Challenges in providing equal opportunities to women in India:

  • There are several constraints that check the process of women empowerment in India. Social norms and family structure in developing countries like India, manifests and perpetuate the subordinate status of women.
  • Education:
  • While the country has grown from leaps and bounds since independence where education is concerned. The gap between women and men is severe. While 82.14% of adult men are educated, only 65.46% of adult women are known to be literate in India.
  • Poverty:
  • Poverty is considered the greatest threat to peace in the world, and eradication of poverty should be a national goal as important as the eradication of illiteracy. Due to this, women are exploited as domestic helps.
  • Health and Safety:
  • The health and safety concerns of women are paramount for the wellbeing of a country and are an important factor in gauging the empowerment of women in a country. However there are alarming concerns where maternal healthcare is concerned.
  • Missing link from Government:
  • Absence of significantly large budgetary allocations for women-targeted programmes, derail the state government plans towards women. An important focus could be smarter policy and gender-intentional implementation. A key example comes from MGNREGA, a programme whose official policy has long been to pay individual workers in their own bank accounts ,found in recent studies.

Providing Equal opportunities can leverage Economy

  • The large potential increases in GDP that could accrue to India and countries around the world, if they could only close their labour force gender gaps, are often cited. A report by McKinsey Global Institute suggests that if women participated in the Indian economy at the level men do, annual GDP could be increased by 60 per cent above its projected GDP by 2025.
  • Rural women’s relative participation in manufacturing has grown compared to men’s, and manufacturing stands out as a promising means to pull young women, in particular, into the economy. And ensuring better support to small and medium-sized enterprises can help new businesses. Women participation in small and medium enterprises and agriculture can not only provide economic leverage but it can also have spillover effect on sectors like health and education.

Way Forward:

  • In recent times business has made a lot of progress in closing the gender gap ,women now account for about 40 percent of total global workforce and are taking more leadership positions, there are also less limitations on type of job they want to work. This progress is positive, but there’s still a long way to go to close the gender gap for good
  • Create the right working environment:
  • Gender equality starts with the right working culture. Does the business actively promote and support equal opportunities? Is there a fair representation of both men and women in leadership positions? And if not, why? Is the business actively encouraging both men and women to climb up the ranks – and are they provided with the right tools and training to do so? These are all important questions to ask when building an inclusive culture.
  • Equal opportunity for men and women to excel:
  • Taking about in Indian perspective, women’s presence is too low in Parliament; women’s representation in higher post field is very low and rare.
  • We know that women still have limited presence on boards of directors around the world, even though this gender gap can undermine a company’s potential value and growth. Having higher diversity across the board can improve business performance by broadening access to information and encouraging different viewpoints.
  • However, just because a business or industry may have a higher ratio of females, doesn’t mean it’s doing all it can to help women succeed. In the creative industries, for example, there are a large proportion of female employees yet, they only represent a small proportion of director level roles.
  • Create the right balance of personal and professional life:
  • Various Researches found that 90 percent of employees believe taking extended family leave will hurt their career, which is deeply concerning. Modern businesses need to find ways to accommodate these life events, whether that means promoting flexible working or providing paid time-off to look after dependents. Businesses should also be actively encouraging both men and women to take parental leave.
  • We have made great progress in closing the gender pay gap, but as competition heats up, businesses need to put the right strategy in place to build an inclusive culture. Not only will this allow an equal playing field, but it will also enable businesses to improve performance.


Should women be given command posts in the Army?

GS Paper I

Topic: Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues

Mains: women in commanding positions in army

What’s the NEWS?

The Indian Army is what is called a command-oriented Army. The main issue is that anyone who has to be given further positions up the chain of command has to first be experienced in command at the level of a full Colonel, a unit command. So far, this was denied to women.


  • Earlier, women were only being allowed in select areas such as medical, legal, educational, signals and engineering wings of the Army to present status where women are being inducted as Jawans into Army.
  • The forces started inducting women in 1992, have always provided outstanding examples of women’s empowerment. Flying Officer Gunjan Saxena was the first woman to fly into a combat zone during the Kargil war.
  • Over the years, several rescue missions in disaster-hit areas such as Uttarakhand in 2013 have been flown by women chopper pilots.
  • No women are involved in combat roles. In fact it was only in 2008 that it was decided to grant permanent commission to women officers inducted initially for short service commission in those arms of the services that do not involve direct combat roles.

Command Appointments to Women:

  • After the grant of permanent commissions to women officers, the next legal battle in progress is about placing them in command of units to enable career progression alongside their male counterparts.
  • Branches where women are granted permanent commission included Engineers, Signals, Aviation, Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Ordnance and Intelligence.
  • They are still barred from serving in combat arms including Infantry, Mechanized infantry, Armoured Corps and Artillery.

However, amendments need to be made to existing orders to ensure further promotion for women after these commands.

Arguments against giving ‘Command Appointments’ to women:

There is no doubt that women officers have proved themselves as assets wherever they have served. There are multiple reasons why the Indian army hesitates to place women in command of even service units.

  • Physiological limitations: The Central Government has asserted that the “physiological limitations” of women officers and changed battlefield scenario as the primary reasons for not granting the command posts for women in the Army.
  • Societal norms: The troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units, dangers of being taken prisoner of war.
  • Physical capacity of women officers in the Indian Army remains a challenge for command of units.
  • Other challenges: Apart from lower physical standards of women officers compared to men, other challenges include prolonged absence due to pregnancy, children’s education, husband’s career prospects, etc.

Arguments for:

  • It is a reflection of regressive mindset of government to perpetuate gender discrimination.
  • It is contrary to the records and statistics of women officers who have worked shoulder to shoulder with their male colleagues and performed extremely well both in peace locations as well as hostile and combat zones.
  • Like men, women should be judged on the basis of their professionalism and merit. It’s incumbent on the organisation to actually repose a certain level of trust in them and give them these command responsibilities.
  • There is a list of decorated women defence officers who showed exemplary courage in armed forced to buttress her point that women are second to none in discharging their duty.
  • The feminization of the defence forces is very important. Women are not just beneficiaries or victims but also active agents of change.


  • There is a need for administrative will and “change of mindset” within the system to ensure change is accepted.
  • Reforms has begun: The Delhi High Court has paved the way for recruitment of women in the Territorial Army, saying any provision that bars them is ultra vires fundamental rights provided under the Constitution. Others which can be included are Military Engineering Service command appointments and Wireless Experimental Units.
  • Lessons from Israel: In Israel, most men and women perform compulsory military service. The Israel Defense Forces say that today, nearly 50 percent of Israel’s lieutenants and captains are women. Israel defense forces holds out as proof that women can be all that they can be in the military.

Soldiers respect professionalism, good leadership, irrespective of whether it is demonstrated by a male or female officer.

Mains question:

‘’There is a need for administrative will and change of mindset within the system in granting command positions to women officers in the Indian Army.’’ In the light of this statement analyze the issue of granting commanding positions to women in Indian Army.