At a time when gender bias and sexual harassment against women tops the chart of issues faced by the country, a recent study has revealed that even India’s police force is afflicted with sexism and prejudiced attitude towards women.
The study conducted by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has also found that even after a central government’s order for the police force to raise and maintain the proportion of women to 33 percent in police force, women make up only only 6.11 percent of India’s 2.3 million police force.
The report titled ‘Rough Roads to Equality: Women Police in South Asia’ released on Wednesday, August 19, also records and compares the percentage of women in different countries and mostly India’s neigbours. In United States, women account for 12 percent of the police force, compared with 0.9 percent in Pakistan, 7.4 percent in the Maldives and only 4.6% in Bangladesh.
State wise, Tamil Nadu has the highest number of women police officers at 12 percent out of a total force of 1,11,448 while Assam ranks lowest with a percentage of 0.93 percent revealing that out of 55,033 there are only 510 women officers.
While the total estimated number of IPS officers is 4000, only 928 Indian police women are IPS officers.
Moreover, the study also shows that of a total workforce of 22,83,646, only 1,05,325 are women.
The study showed that more than 80 percent of policewomen are constables, the lowest rank, 7.8 percent head constables, 3.35 percent assistant sub inspectors and only 0.02 percent hold the top ranks — director general and additional director general.
Interviews with male and female police officers in five Indian states found that women faced a deep-seated gender bias across the police force which started at recruitment and carried on throughout their career, said Devika Prasad, co-author of the report.
“Everywhere that we went, women police across ranks told us one of the most discouraging things for them is that there are no women on recruitment and interview boards and selection panels,” Prasad said at the launch of the report.
“We also found that women are assigned desk and clerical jobs and not given frontline operational duties such as investigations. We were constantly told by male police that policing is a man’s job and that women can’t do the job as they are not strong physically or psychologically.”
Thematically, the report also underlines that in addition to low proportion of women, India’s police is also plagued by sexism, with women given menial duties, bypassed for promotion and scared to report sexual harassment by male colleagues.
The report also found that there was little acknowledgment by the police leadership of sexual harassment, and that many policewomen did not even know there was a law against sexual harassment in the workplace, and how and where to complain.