Gender bias is something that has transgressed all societal boundaries in this country. A highly regularised and authoritarian body such as the police also reportedly faces the problem.
Kanwaljit Deol, former Director General of Police (DGP) says, “Police also comes from the society and if the society is gender-biased then the force will inevitably be the same. But saying this is not enough. If the society is castiest and communal, we cannot expect the same from the police.”
A new study by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) suggests that women constitute six per cent of the entire police force which is much smaller than other South Asian and also BRICS countries.
“Indian police as a concept was given to us by the British. An imperial force then, police were only males, which was also not the case in Britain at the time, which since 1857 had women in their force. So, Indian police has been recognised as a masculine body for a long time,” says Kamal Kumar, ex-DGP.
He adds, “In rape cases, we find it hard to depute women officers to interrogate and investigate since there are such few options. If during a rally or a protest people see women police officers around in as many numbers as they are used to seeing men, the population will not assume the police to be as a very authoritarian body.”
A 2011 UN Women report says, “Data from 39 countries shows that the presence of women police officers correlates positively with reporting of sexual assault, which confirms that recruiting women is an important component of a gender-responsive justice system.”
Jacob Punnoose IPS, ex-DGP, Kerala, says, “Kerala deployed the first woman police officer in 1933 and it still stands as an example. In Kerala all police stations (PS) have women and it registers the most number of cases against women. Along with rate of crimes against women, it also suggests that having women in police stations makes women comfortable in reporting to the PS.”
The police have been very unwelcoming to women, as the CHRI study suggests. It also shows women remain mostly in the lower ranks of the order. With separate cadres for entering and promotion for different genders; basic infrastructural facilities in police stations; women being pushed only for women and child cases etc are factors which are increasingly preventing women from even getting into the force. Once they enter the force, women face challenges in equalising with their male counterparts. The issue is also compounded by the fact that women also face discrimination from their female leaders.
Deol tells Metrolife, “In my career I have faced discrimination in getting equal opportunities. But conventionally I am from the elite part of policing, as I am from the IPS background. The main problem is faced by women who are working in the police stations as constables and sub-inspectors.”
A woman police officer requesting anonymity, shares with Metrolife, “When we come back from maternity leave we are given hard posting, long hours – it gets difficult. Also, it is difficult to be on duty 24 hours – particularly when there are less facilities available to us.”
The issue of gender sensitisation in police is not new but has been mostly in the shadow. Bodies like CHRI, India Women Police Network, National Conference of Women in Police have been pushing the cause ‘Police need women’. Recently, it has been noted that following a certain cultural pattern, depending on development of states, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have seen an impressive number of women entering the force.