GENDER SENSITIVE POLICE REFORM IN INDIA
The most “patriarchal” of institutions — the Indian Police — is standing on the threshold of change as the three-day National Conference for Women in Police (organised biennially by the Bureau of Police Research and Development) ended recently at the CRPF Aacademy in Gurgaon. This was the first such conference after the Central government approved 33 per cent reservation for women horizontally in each rank for all recruitments in non-gazetted ranks across Union Territories and the state of Delhi. The government sees gender equity as an integral part of police reforms, thereby catalysing gender equity in the society. These are exciting times to look beyond the statutorily ordained roles for women and gender stereotypes. The mainstreaming of women in the police force has become an imperative necessitated by their impending large numbers. It is time to challenge the existing gender relations and division of labour within the police and outside. In a profession where the ability to spew expletives is a vital part — it is also a challenge for women joining the police to establish space on their own terms.
The unyielding tenets of police hierarchy, dominance and control are set to give way to citizen-centric policing, whereby more feminine forms of persuasion, negotiation, influence, reconciliation, and consensus creation reign. At its inception, the police in India was never conceived as an organic part of society but an instrument of oppression by the British colonial masters. This is an appropriate time to intervene to apply course corrections. The aim should be to make the police an organic institution that does not draw its powers from the sceptre of imperious powers but is based on a willing social contract between a “rational” person and the police for a harmonious “social” existence. The presence of women personnel in large numbers will inspire many. Such large numbers will also achieve a breakthrough, not only in the way the police is perceived by the general populace but also the way women are perceived in society at large. If women in police endeavour to succeed by emulating men in adopting and perpetuating the culture of patriarchy, it would be a great loss. This is a golden opportunity for course correction for removing endemic structural defects.
The safety and security of women is no longer a social or moral concern. It is a national economic imperative too. IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde has said that gender parity can boost India’s GDP by 27 per cent. The presence of women in police will catalyse processes that build up on existing beliefs and values of society forming a virtuous circle, by making women safe and increasing their participation in social economic, political life, thereby enhancing gender equality in Indian society. This euphoria is punctured when we see the data of six states that have had one-third reservation for women for quite some time (viz Bihar, Gujarat, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra). This goal has remained aspirational as these states have only achieved between 3 and 10 per cent representation for women in Bihar and Maharashtra respectively till date.
Affirmative action, which seeks to attract middle class educated women to police, is required. An enabling environment (99 per cent of police stations have no toilets for women — Swachtha Abhiyan could be the answer), attitudinal change, a gender neutral work environment, and accoutrement, knowledge, and skill training and suitable recruitment policies that draw upon Athletic Federation and Sport Authority of India norms for physical endurance are required to achieve the critical one-third mass of women in police. Moreover, these measures will make the police force yield to a flexible feminine form balancing its yang with yin for optimum service to the society.
By Aditi Singh