Gender Sensitive Policing

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By Sophie Hardefeldt, Intern – Gender Training Institute

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The National Crime Records Bureau reported in 1998 that the growth rate of crimes against women in India would be higher than the population growth by 2010. As the 2011 census reveals, India’s population growth for 2001-2011 decreased to 1.64 per cent per annum, while according to the National Crime Records Bureau rape is the fastest growing crime in India.

In cities such as Delhi, which accounts for nearly one-fourth of all crimes committed against women in India, women continue to suffer from sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence. A United Nations survey found in 2010 that nearly 85 per cent of women in the capital felt unsafe and at risk of being sexually harassed.

[] [Post] Increased urbanisation, access to sexual content via the internet and television and the growing clash between urban and rural values are all responsible for the increase in crimes against women. However, inappropriate policing has also contributed to the growth in crime throughout the country. Current statistics show that only 1 in every 69 women who are sexually assaulted file an FIR and many still complain that police refuse to file an FIR or do not take their complaint seriously.

Women’s lack of confidence in the police has led to thousands of violence against women cases going un-reported and the perpetrators of gender based violence not being held accountable for their actions. The lack of sensitivity and gender knowledge within the police force, coupled with corruption and gender bias has further aggravated the problem.

Increasing the number of women police officers throughout the country will lead to more women feeling comfortable to report sexual assault and gender-based violence to the police and will decrease the prevalence of crimes against women from the grassroots level to the policy making level.

Women in the Indian Police
In a country of 1.2 billion people, having a strong police authority is crucial to keeping crime at bay. There are approximately 178 police officers per 100,000 people in India, which currently ranks 47th in the world for having the most police per capita. With the United Nations norm of 220 per 100,000, India is nearly 600,000 police officers short.

There is also a major gender gap in the police force. As of 2009, women made up only 2.8%of the nations police force. Therefore, the total women police for a 10,000 population is only 0.31. At the State/Upper Territory’s level, the maximum woman police force of 9,105 was working in Maharashtra, followed by 7,728 in Tamil Nadu and 3,580 in Delhi.

Of the 56,667 women police officers, 81% are constables and only 4,168 women are head constables. However, the lowest representation of women is in the highest police posts, Director General of Police, which is headed by only 7 women nationwide.

While many states have a reservation policy for women police, hardly any have a strategy for “recruitment, training, work distribution and promotions, or postings and welfare.” A survey of 1,000 women officers across 20 states, conducted by Uttaranchal Police, found that 64% of women joined the police on merit while 36% have been recruited on compassionate grounds. 25% of women police officers have not received even the most basic, mandatory training and 58% had only been given one basic training.

However, there has been some improvement and the number of high-ranking women police officers has more than doubled in the past decade. Furthermore, in 1992 Tamil Nadu introduced the first All Women Police Stations (AWPS). There are now over 188 AWPS in Tamil Nadu and 342 across the country. Each station has 15 women police officers. These stations have led to increases in the reporting of crimes against women.

Women Friendly Policing
One of the first major steps taken towards preventing crimes against women in India was the establishment of the Crimes Against Women Cell (CAWC) in 1986.

These cells, which were first established in Delhi and eventually spread to other states, provide additional manpower, infrastructure and responsibilities in order to focus on preventing crimes against women. One of the added features of the CAWC is providing counselling to the victim in domestic issues. The growth of CAWC’s around India have allowed for increased the presence of police.

The CAWC also act upon cases of sexual harassment, molestation and rape. These cells serve as places of legal support as well as non-police services where women can gain access to NGO’s and free legal advice which aims to help protect women from further abuse.

One of the most significant services created by the CAWC is the 24-hour helpline that assists callers in distress. The helpline number diverts the call to the nearest PCR Van that can assist women in need of help. These help lines have become increasingly popular and have helped prevent crimes and increase police presence.

In 2001, the National Policy on the Empowerment of Women was drafted and called for strong action to be taken by state level and national level police forces. The policy provides “enforcement of relevant legal provisions and speedy redressal of grievances with special focus on violence and gender related atrocities and measures to prevent and punish sexual harassment at work place.” It also calls for the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of crimes against women to be reviewed regularly at the Central, State and District levels and an increase in women’s cells, women police stations and mahila courts.

Despite these initiatives violence against women continues to increase. Between 2009 and 2010 alone there was 4.8 per cent rise in crimes against women across India.

There are several reasons for the failure of these approaches to reduce gender-based violence. Majority of the CAW cells designated for women are run by male police officers. One of the biggest criticisms of these cells is the counseling provided to the victims of violence. Many police officers are influenced by patriarchal stereotypes and values leading to the inappropriate handling of violence against women cases and women feeling victimised and blamed for being abused or assaulted. In many cases women do not feel comfortable approaching male police officers for fear of further harassment.

In addition, these initiatives are still unable to reach out to women who are not aware of their rights. Although there are Crisis Intervention Centres and Lawyer Collectives that aim to inform women of their right to seek legal help, only 1% of women ever report incidences of abuse.

Future Police Reform
Increasing the number of women police officers is central to achieving an increase in the reporting of crimes against women and a reduction in gender-based violence across the country. Studies have shown that women police officers often possess better communication skills than their male counterparts and often respond more effectively to incidents of violence against women. They also suggest that women take crimes against other women more seriously than men, and therefore work harder towards ensuring the safety of the complainant.

The benefit of having more women officers is evident in Tamil Nadu. According to theNational Crime Records Bureau, since the inception of the AWPS, the conviction rate in Tamil Nadu has risen to 62%, one of the highest in the country. In addition, there’s been a 23% increase in the reporting of crimes against women. Increasing the woman police force will also lead to make police officers becoming more gender sensitive. In Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, where there is a rise in women personnel, police forces are becoming more women friendly.

Gender-sensitive policies and processes must also be developed and implemented to ensure that all officers respond appropriately to cases of violence against women. Current practices continue to be undermined by patriarchy and discrimination against women. Gender-sensitisation training is required throughout the police force to breakdown these structures of gender discrimination, to develop a women-friendly culture within police frameworks, and to educate police on women’s rights, laws protecting women from violence and abuse and appropriate processes for responding to cases of sexual assault and violence against women.

Increasing the number of women police officers, developing women friendly policies and processes, and ensuring all officers receive gender sensitisation training will result in a more open, aware, and women friendly police force which is able to respond to crimes against women in a more effective and gender sensitive manner.

Excerpt from Guru Franklin Joseph

Guru Franklin Joseph is a Israeli certified Senior Civilian Instructor of Krav Maga Bangalore, an Israeli Elite Military Self Defense Combat system Mixed Martial Arts with no-rules, battle-tested, fast-paced, reflex-action based tactics dedicated to no-holds-barred combat for the purpose of street survival practiced in real life scenario based training.:

It’s high time the protesting, protest walks and debates change to action against gender bias or gender-based violence. History has proven preparation of war actually brings peace. Women must take up self defense and women empowerment workshop to prepare against crime, violence and sexual abuse. Simple question to all the women, if you see a bad person violently abusing your youngest child, will you argue or talk with him or attack him to prevent the injuries to the child? Tribal Women have fought tigers and lions to protect children without any martial arts skills. I bet modern women can use these knowledge to educate and empower herself to protect her dignity and also of her loved ones. —