The police is one of the most important institutions in any society, and must be representative of the society that it is tasked with protecting. Data from the Bureau of Police Research and Development has revealed that women account for only 7.28% of all police personnel. At the top, the numbers are even more dismal, with less than 1% of senior positions being occupied by women. Even as the rate of crimes against women has increased in the past few years, the glaring lack of women police personnel raises important questions not just about effective policing but also about the place of women in society.
A Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) report titled ‘Rough Roads to Equality: Women Police in South Asia 2015’ found that in Jharkhand, the state police manual itself subordinates the role of women in the force. It specifies that women officers “are not to be substituted” for male officers but must only be deployed for specific tasks such as escorting female prisoners, etc that women “could perform more effectively and with greater advantage than male police.” Such institutionalised prejudice is one of the reasons why a career in the police is unattractive to women. For there to be effective policing, it would be useful to keep in mind what the police reformer and former British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel said: “The police are the public and the public are the police.”
Policing, to emulate the Peelian model, must be done with the consent and respect of the community that is policed, rather than by force. In such a model, representation in the police force of the religions, castes, and genders of society is vitally important, in order for policing to be effective. Gender equality in policing will go a long way in reinforcing trust in the police within women in particular. The traditional patriarchal notion that police work is a man’s job continues to remain entrenched in the forces. This report must serve as a wake-up call for senior authorities within the police and policy makers in government to realise that better representation in the police force will only contribute to making policing more effective and more humane. Read More