The Indian Navy is actively considering introducing new, ergonomically-designed overalls, tailored specifically for women serving onboard warships. This initiative arises from the recent induction of women in the personnel below officer rank (PBOR) cadre for the first time. It is anticipated that their numbers will progressively increase in the years ahead, according to officials familiar with the development.

Gender Neutral Uniforms

Officials sought feedback from various Naval Commands and establishments regarding the design of these new overalls. Additionally, the Navy has decided to standardise uniforms for all officers and sailors, irrespective of gender, as per information obtained.

The forthcoming fire-retardant overalls, which serve as standard work attire for personnel on warships, aim to offer increased comfort to women while addressing the challenge of physiological needs in a fast-paced environment, stated an official who preferred anonymity.

The Navy is moving towards implementing standard uniforms for all its personnel, focusing on attire that is both comfortable and functional, added officials. They emphasised that these changes consider the practical requirements of the job and will align the Navy more closely with the uniform regulations of the Indian Army and Air Force.

In efforts to create an equitable workplace for its women cadre, the Navy's latest stealth destroyer, Imphal, recently received from Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, boasts separate accommodation for women sailors. While women officers currently serve on various warships with separate berthing facilities, this provision was not available for women sailors until now.

Milestone Increase In The Number of Women Naval Cadres

The Navy, pioneering the induction of women in the PBOR cadre across all streams among the three services, is diligently working on these new overalls to ensure that women officers and sailors are not inconvenienced during their duties, affirmed another official, also requesting anonymity.

The Navy's inaugural group of Agniveers, inclusive of around 270 women, completed their training at INS Chilka in Odisha and commenced service in March 2023 under the Agnipath scheme. This scheme, a significant departure from the traditional military recruitment system that was discarded last year, aims to recruit soldiers for four years, with provisions to retain 25 per cent of them for an additional 15 years following fresh screening.

Feedback on the design of the new overalls was solicited from various Naval Commands and establishments, noted the first official.

Presently, approximately 40 women officers serve onboard warships. In 2021, the Navy deployed four women officers to warships after a gap of almost 25 years. A previous attempt involved women from the Navy's logistics and medical branches being stationed on fleet tanker INS Jyoti in 1997, albeit for a brief period.

Further changes include the upcoming redesignation of ranks in the PBOR cadre to ensure gender neutrality. The Navy has reviewed ranks inherited from the British and plans to introduce Indianised designations, aligning with the broader initiative to discard colonial military traditions. Additionally, new gender-neutral rank titles will be announced shortly.

The re-designation will affect over 65,000 sailors, with seven ranks in the Navy's PBOR cadre undergoing changes, including the alteration of three existing titles that are currently not gender-neutral: Master Chief Petty Officer Ist Class, Master Chief Petty Officer IInd Class, Chief Petty Officer, Petty Officer, Leading Seaman, Seaman Ist Class, and Seaman IInd Class.