The history of war is as old as the human civilization itself, a clear off- shoot of intra-species struggle. Numerous wars have been fought on earth hitherto, many exclusively for women such as War of Troy for Helen. But, the irony is that war has always been a male bastion as most of the fighters participating in any war are male and barring few exceptions women never got any opportunity to fight in war form the forefront. But, this notion has undergone a sea change over the years and the scenario and modus operandi of fighting any war is also changing fatly.
If we turn the pages of history, we find that during ancient time across all known civilizations of the world, only men were part of combat forces, whereas maximum which was expected from females was to provide emotional support to warriors in the form of mother, sister or wife. Furthermore, females were supposed only a mechanism to produce progeny (i.e. more warriors for forthcoming wars ) and keep the process of perpetuation of warriors going on and on. For example, the famous statement of wife of King Leonardus of Sparta that “Only Spartan females produce real men (i.e. true and fierce warriors in context to war)” is an unequivocal evidence of the limited role of women in armed forces, even in the elite and most developed the then state of Sparta. On the other hand, the role of women in princely states of India was even more restricted and pathetic even in mighty Mauryan empire established by Chandragupta Maurya .In a nutshell, at that time, women were only warrior producing machines and not a warrior who fights at the forefront.
The medieval history witnessed rise in the role of women in war related activities. Now in Central Asian and other civilizations women started being observers of court proceeding by sitting behind curtains of court. Indirectly, they even became part of war strategy. This trend was more prominent in certain barbarian tribes of Central Asia living on the eastern side of Hindu Kush, such as Huns, Sakas, Kusans who were fond of fighting wars as war was their favorite past time! This trend was also evident people of Mongolian tribes living in present day Ajer Baizan and Mongolia especially in the dynasty of Temur and Changez Khan which later traversed to Chinese provinces. A direct consequence of this was starting of Marshall Arts training for women. It is rightly said that change is constant and India was also not isolated form this phenomena. The Rajputs of Rajputana princely states of Rajasthan also started providing training to women for combat operations, but they never used women in actual wars. For example, Princess Jodha who was later married to Mughal emperor Akbar.
In modern history, if we talk of India, there were many princely states who provide training to women. Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi due to her courageous acts brought world fame to the state of Jhansi. Captain Lakhmi Sehgal of Indian National Army is another great and noteworthy example to quote.
But the actual rise in the stature of women in armed force took place with the beginning of First World War in 1914. The most important reason being death of male fighters at forefront who were fighting for their nation and to be more precise, for the coalition their nation was part of. Due to death of male fighters each day, and consequent shortage of troop, the immediate repercussion was use of women in war, and also providing them opportunity to work at posts which were earlier exclusively only for males. This trend was catapulted more fiercely during World War II, shattering the notion that armed forces is a male bastion!
In 1914, when Russian princess Eugenie Shakhovskaya became the first female military pilot in the world and the subsequent World War events, made the world realize the importance of women in Armed Forces. But, this idea most steadfastly picked by Intelligence Agencies such as KGB, CIA, MI 5, MI 6, MOSSAD etc. who started using women for their operations. Even arch rivals RAW and ISI were not behind in this race. One classic example to quote in this regard is of Golda Maeyer of MOSSAD who later became first Prime Minister of Israel.
Taking example from erstwhile USSR, during Cold War years, USA started inducting females in combat groups of their armed forces. Presently, females is USA are also part of her most elite and lethal commando force- The US Marines with tagline- THE FEW THE PRIDE who are at present also in operation at Marjah in Afghanistan fighting Taliban fighters.
Most astonishing is the case of Muslim country Iraq, which under the rule of Saddam Hussain inducted women in large numbers in combat groups. He had greatest faith in the loyalty, efficiency and combat capabilities of women so much so that his nearest security cover had only female commandoes.
Even Pakistan stepped far ahead in this race Flight Lieutenant Ambareen Gul became the first female fighter pilot of Pakistan Air Force, which at present has 7 female fighter pilots, whereas on the other hand Indian Air Force till now do not have even a single female fighter pilot.
But, actually, it was Israel who championed the role of women in armed forces, as it started providing basic military training to all females in the country and provided opportunity for women to work on any post or rank or assignment whether it be combat or non-combat, according to their merit and capability.
But all above mentioned events had very little impact on psyche of Indian mass culture. Long after India’s independence in 1947, in 1992, Wing Commander (Retd.) Anupama Joshi became first female officer of Indian Air Force. From this started the commissioning of females in Indian Armed Forces, but only as a Short Commissioned Officer just for a duration of 10 years and that too only in non-combat branches only. Although Indian Navy’s Medical Research Report states that Indian Women are comparatively more fir than their male counterparts in terms of psychological, mental and physical preparedness for successful execution and accomplishment of any war like operations or activities. Even then Indian Armed Forces are reluctant to give opportunity to women to join combat groups and take permanent commission. The recent remarks of Vice-Chief of Indian Air Force Air Marshal P.K.Barbora that giving commission to women as fighter pilot will be a waste of money and resources, added fuel to fire and a lot of hue and cry was made in this regard. On 1 APR 2010, the issue become even burning when newly appointed Chief of Army Staff General V.K. Singh said that giving permanent commission to women in Indian Armed Forces is going to be a daunting task.
The fight by women for Permanent Commission and joining Combat Groups in Indian Armed Forces, compelled Anupama Joshi and other female officers to take the matter to court. On 12 MARCH 2010, Delhi High Court came out with a land mark judgment that women must also be given Permanent Commission and opportunity to join Combat Group. Hope this will change Indian psyche and will lead to elevation in stature of females in Indian Armed Forces and in Indian society as whole!!!!!