Should 50% of Indian Police Force constitute women

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Women constitute half of population roughly in any society. Even after 70 years of Independence, women constitute only 7% of police force. Hardly 8 states and Union Territories have women constituting 10% of police force. Even in this meager percentage more than 90% of women in police force are constables, with less than 1% being in supervisory positions – according to state of policing in India report -2019. Despite central ministry of Home affairs recommending a minimum of 33% of police force to be women, there is a minimal effort from many states (policing and public order is in state list). A circular by the ministry also stated in 2015 that skewed sex ratio in police force is causing many cases of violence against women (including sexual) to go un-noticed. This scenario shows the importance of bridging this gender gap in Indian police force.

According to NCRB, over 11% of IPC crimes were committed against women and about 5% of arrested persons were women in 2016. Hence even if we go by simple mathematics, without  having 16% of police force from women, not only will the mandate of various laws remain non-complied, but also dealing with day to day public order will fall short of public expectations. To bridge this gender gap it is important to understand the reasons for such low representation of women in police force,  as explained below:

There is a strong belief that combat, by nature is a male occupation. “Female physique and temperament is un-suitable to police force”, says 2018 report on citizen’s attitude towards police. Inflexible, long working hours, family pressure against it also act as a deterrent. One in five women police personnel reported of not having separate toilet for women at their station. Family responsibilities, especially of children make them not to choose such a hectic work profile. Their morale gets lowered when they are just given desk work unlike their male co-workers. All these need to be addressed first to increase women representation in police force.



Importance of women in Indian Police force:

Data from 39 countries show that presence of women police officers co-relates positively with reporting of sexual assault. “This confirms that recruiting women is an important component of a gender responsive justice system” noted a United Nations Women report in 2011-12 titled “Progress of world’s women, In pursuit of Justice.” A rise in number of police women has been correlated with a decline in rates of domestic abuse and intimate partner crime. These reports are significant as National Family Health Survey of 2015-16 said that 99% of sexual assault cases go un-reported in India.

            Taking more women in police will also solve the issue of manpower shortage in police force. It helps minority of the country to have more trust in police force. Bridging the gender gap in police force can set an example of ending discrimination against women and ensuring equality between men and women-both are fundamental rights enshrined in Indian constitution. Along with addressing above issues, following ways can be adopted to increase their representation:

One way to maintain women in police force is to develop a model policy that will challenge deep rooted patriarchy in the institution. It shall also strive to create a safe and enabling work environment. Without this, all efforts will remain piecemeal. Many states have adopted the policy of reservation to increase the share of women. It alone is proved not to be enough. There should also be healthy mix of women from all levels of positions in police, not just confined to constables. There must be geographical diversity as well.

Crèches must be provided near major stations at least, so that women with children need not get distracted while working. Women must be given the taste of combat from childhood by encouraging them to join in NCC etc. Women police should be given job of investigative, maintaining public order on par with male police to boost their morale. Department must be mindful of social reality and exercise sensitivity in transfers and posting of women personnel. As far as possible, they should be posted in their home districts.

Way forward:

All the above state that there is urgent need to increase women in police to at least 33% if not to 50%. However above mentioned approaches must also be adopted, not only to increase representation but also to increase the effectiveness of their work and promote equity. More women in the force is not only an expression of formal fulfillment of sexual equality but also about achieving a true lebensraum- a space conducive for natural development. 

-Anusha Kolli

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