India’s defence ministry moots all-woman Republic Day parade next year, leaves officials confused
Republic Day parade in 2024 will be an all-woman affair, as per a letter written by Indian Defence Ministry (Seen by WION) to several government departments and agencies. “After detailed deliberations, it has been decided that the Republic Day Parade, 2024, will have only women participants in the contingents (marching and band), tableaux and other performances during the Parade at Kartavya Path,” the letter stated.
Move aimed at promoting women empowerment
Hindustan Times quoted senior government officials as saying that the move by the union government was aimed at promoting gender equality and women empowerment. It also reflects women’s growing participation in the country’s armed forces, including army and paramilitary forces.
Letter creates confusion among officials
The letter dispatched by the defence ministry has now created confusion among some officials. One official was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying that it was not possible to include women participants in all marching and band contingents. “Irrespective of what the letter states, the government will only do what is practical,” said another official.
The official added, “For instance, women have not been inducted in the infantry, which has the maximum number of marching contingents at the parade. Officers lead the marching contingents which consist of personnel below officer rank (PBOR). The army has women in the PBOR cadre only in the Corps of Military Police.”
Increasing women’s participation in India’s armed forces
The Indian government has been focusing on Nari Shakti (Women Power) in recent years, with women officers being assigned central roles on par with their male counterparts across the three services. Women in uniform are flying fighter planes, serving on board warships, being inducted into the PBOR cadre, eligible for permanent commission, being assigned command roles, and undergoing training at the National Defence Academy. However, tanks and combat positions in the infantry are still not accessible to women.
Despite this, women officers have been taking part in parades and leading marching contingents for the past few years. In March, Colonel Geeta Rana became the first woman army officer to assume command of an independent unit in the sensitive Ladakh sector, where India and China have been embroiled in a border dispute for three years.
In early January, Captain Shiva Chouhan became the first woman officer to be deployed at Siachen, the world's highest and coldest battleground. The army also deployed its largest contingent of 27 women peacekeepers in Sudan's disputed region of Abyei, where they are performing security-related tasks in a challenging mission as part of the United Nations Interim Security Force (UNISFA).
On April 29, five lady cadets were commissioned into the regiment of artillery as lieutenants for the first time.