A policewoman's hard-hitting account on how poorly India treats its women

Segregation is really not the way to go.

 |  5-minute read |   08-01-2016
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My first brush with gender identity took place at the age of 17 when I reached Delhi to further my undergraduate studies.

I guess it was much easier at the time and I didn’t have to deal with discrimination a lot. For starters, I went to an all-girls’ college which helped me in providing a much required insulation and space to try out different avenues for self development.

I found that in addition to quizzing, which was a habit developed in school, I could speak convincingly in public. It is quite an asset nowadays, though speaking, in my line of work, is more like shouting.

It was in one of my visits to a place of worship of a different religion that I found men sitting on one side and the women sitting on the other. Later when I visited another place of worship of yet another religious belief, I found the same. To my utter surprise it was the same story at a social event. 

I didn’t really think much of it; college was a blur with studies, sports, extracurricular activities, socials and fests which did not warrant such segregation. Sometimes with some degree of naiveté, I wonder if society has become more gender biased only in the last few years.

It would be utterly wrong to think this, though it seems like in the last 15 years the number of women in the public space - educational institutions and workplaces have increased exponentially.

I’ve been in the police for nearly a decade and, believe me, it has really opened my eyes. Men and women are totally segregated in the country.

It starts from gender biased laws, to gender specific procedures and finally, ends at gender-based policing. This really is no recipe for success. We have countries like Australia which are without gender biased laws, yet the percentage of crimes against women in relation to the population is somewhat akin to that of India.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are equally common and prevalent in both societies. None of these developed countries have set up all-women police stations though.

Also read: We raped and killed them: Crime and confessions

In India, all women police stations have not really helped. Instead women victims of crime are sent away to specialised police stations which are generally established in the district head quarters.

Most women just don’t go to avoid the added pressure of traveling the distance. Another scheme of putting a women’s desk at every police station was then tried out. Even that wasn’t very successful as the rest of the stations tend to avoid anything to do with women who are victims of crime.

Segregation is really not the way to go.

We should integrate all-women officers and personnel into mainstream policing. Educate both male and female personnel together and sensitise them to the requirements of women victims in the criminal justice system for they do have special needs.

Everyone in the police must be aware and must receptively ensure their response towards such problems faced by women in our society. Training the police is only one side of the solution. The other has been to provide self defence classes to girls and women.

I would personally believe it is a good exercise in as much as it will make our ladies confident and strong. It would be wrong to imagine this as the only strong and proactive measure though.

There has to be inclusion of an exercise to map out those areas where women and children are most vulnerable: like dark alleys and roads, crowded localities with floating and anonymous population, lonely stretches etc. A lot of these crimes can be prevented by simple measures such as increased police patrolling or putting street lights.

Along with these measures, innovative technology like safety apps and pepper spray can also be used for security. There has to be a comprehensive 360-degree approach to find solutions to this menace. The problems are both within and without the organisation.

I still can’t get something out of my head. Early on, a thoroughly corrupt and morally bankrupt officer who had risen from the ranks by hanging on to the coat-tails of politicians said in the most vulgar vernacular: "a dog whose tails has been cut and a woman who has cut her hair short are both equally ugly".

I gave him an earful he’s not going to forget in a hurry. It made me sensitive to the kind of misogynist and unkind environment women in the police have to work in. Not that society is any better for them or for other females.

The first child I saw who was sexually assaulted was just seven-years-old. The accused had even tried to kill her by cutting her neck. As I took down her statement in the hospital, I remember this malnourished child, scared and scarred, in a dirty frock, her neck wrapped in gauze where the doctors had stitched her. Her hands and legs were skinny and lanky; there was nothing faintly feminine about her.

She was just a lovely little child and I couldn’t imagine what kind of a monster would try to break her.

Over the years, I have fought with insensitive doctors who ask victims even when they are bleeding to come back the next day. I have apprehended accused of such crimes and interrogated them. I have even investigated fake rape charges. Each case has its own merit and there is just no way to generalise anything.

The only aspect that can be ensured is proper training of police officials and help from social welfare department and other stakeholders, such as doctors, witnesses who would ensure justice. There seems to be no reason why changes can not be effected into the society to make it a secure place.

While well-dressed models smile and sell sanitary napkins that help them play tennis and follow their dreams, there are women in this country who have to stay outside the house on "those" days. While we have ladies who are sarpanchs and leaders of industry, we have women who go to school in a burqa. 

While there are many women who teach in schools, we have many who die for lack of medical care as no one in the family will take them to a hospital in time. While we have women who write books, many don’t even get born as female foeticide remains rampant in most parts of the country.

The only hope is that the number of educated, self-aware, financially independent women increase to usher in a better life.

Writer

Moriarty Undercover Moriarty Undercover

A practicing law enforcer who often takes on the role of a negotiator, peace keeper, defender, agony aunt, counsellor, who has to clear road blocks, coordinate relief, help build schools, rescue children from enforced labour etc etc and not bat an eyelid while ensuring all other aspects of policing most notably maintenance of law and order and prevention, detection and investigation of crime simultaneously.

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