By Shikha Sreenivas
As the fight for a stronger presence of women in the fields of science, technology, journalism, and many other fields continues, another space where the presence of women is negligible in India is in the police force.
According to the Times of India, which presented an analysis of the 2016 report ‘Data on Police Organisation in India’ the national average of female officers in the police force is 7.1 percent. But Karnataka is even lower than that, at 6.14 percent. Out of the 70,934 personnel in the state, only 4,354 are women. And out of the 606 women police personnel in Bengaluru, 502 are constables.
Bengaluru has the lowest number of women personnel, compared to Delhi-NCR and Mumbai which have more than 6,000 and 4,000 female police personnel respectively. Hyderabad is another major city is another city with a low number of female personnel, with just 320, in spite of having ‘SHE teams’ a women’s wing of the police to respond exclusively to crimes against women.
The presence of women in a police station makes it more comfortable to report gender-related crimes of abuse and harassment, for both women and transgenders, who usually get harassed most by police men. Not that the presence of women will necessarily solve the kind of prejudices and biases that women and transgenders face, but research does show that women are less likely to be involved in acts of violence than their male counterparts, and will try to handle the encounter without physical action.
According to a study reported by the Telegraph in 2014, on the induction of women in para-military forces, it was found that many women face problems in police training colleges, because male instructors are gender insensitive, and often use ‘rough and abusive language which demoralises the trainees’. The study also found that training institutes tend to focus on male trainees, more than their female counterparts.
From the police stations I have visited over the years for the purpose of research or because of trouble, I’ve always felt the overwhelming male presence of the space from the moment I walk in. It isn’t necessarily in the form of harassment, but just the superiority and dismissive behaviour with which a male police officer may regard you, coming from a position of having legal power.
Whether or not the presence of female police officers might actually make a difference to the way sexual harassment cases are received, it will introduce a different perspective and style to policing that is different from the high levels of machoism and masculinity in the police force now.