Indian police does not create enabling environment for women personnel, nor is it gender-friendly

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Excerpts from the chapter “Gender and Police” in the recently released report, “Status of Policing in India Report 2019”, Published by Common Cause & Lokniti – Centre for the Study Developing Societies (CSDS), which is based on a countrywide sample of 2416 (20%) women out of the total of 11836 police personnel interviewed:

The representation of women in the Indian police continues to be poor, at 7.28 percent in 2016. Police forces in India lack gender sensitivity, failing to address the needs of women within the police forces. The lack of women’s representation in the police further contributes to reinforcement of gender stereotypes, and intensified biases, against both, women within the police as well as women who have an interface with the police.

While the numbers have improved over a decade, going up from 3.89 percent in 2007 to 7.28 percent in 2016, the question is–is this pace good enough? Further, the question that we attempt to address in this chapter is whether we are providing a conducive work environment for women in the police force?

Tasks performed by men and women police personnel

Women police personnel are more likely to report doing tasks that requires working from the police station as opposed to going out in the field. This is in contrast to male personnel who are more likely to be engaged in field tasks. More women police personnel reported performing ‘in-house’ tasks, such as maintaining registers/data, dealing with the public and filing FIRs, NCRs and other complaints.

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Conversely, a higher proportion of male police personnel reported performing ‘on-the-field’ tasks like investigation, patrolling, providing security to VIPs, maintaining law and order, etc. Overall, the proportion of men performing in-house tasks was found to be seven percentage points lesser than women, whereas that of men performing on-the-field tasks was eight percentage points higher than women.

A further rank-wise distribution of women police personnel reveals that 31 percent of women at constabulary ranks (Constable and Head-constable) and 27 percent at inspector level ranks (Assistant Sub-Inspector, Sub-Inspector, Inspector and Circle Inspector) are doing only in-house tasks. The gap between the two rank categories increases when we compare the ones engaged in ‘on the field tasks,’ with 46 percent of police-women at inspector level performing ‘on the field tasks’, as against only 32 percent at constabulary ranks.

As it appears, the women at senior ranks get to perform more ‘on the field’ tasks, compared to their subordinates. Similarly, on comparing men and women, the picture is more equitable among higher rank police personnel. It is revealed that the gap between police-women and police-men engaged in ‘on the field’ duties reduces from 8 percentage points to 4 percentage points as we move move away from constabulary to inspector rank.

tasks1Maximum percentages of police-women (56%) were found to be performing in-house tasks in the NCT of Delhi, followed by Bihar (49%). The gap between men and women performing in-house tasks was also found to be the highest in these two States–27 percent points in Delhi and 28 percent points in Bihar. On the contrary, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Nagaland and West Bengal were found to have a negligible gap between the work divisions of men and women in police. Interestingly, Punjab and Nagaland have more women police personnel performing ‘on the field’ tasks, compared to men.

Weekly off-days

Almost half of the women police personnel (48%) reported not getting any weekly off. What’s more, just about 29 percent of the female personnel reported getting one day holiday in a week. In States like Odisha and Chhattisgarh the situation is much worse, with 95 and 90 percent women police respectively reporting to not getting any weekly holidays. Maharashtra, with no women responding as ‘nil,’ was found to be the best performing State with respect to weekly rests for personnel. This was followed by Karnataka with only seven percent women reporting no weekly offs.

Staying back post duty hours

Two out of every five women police personnel (41%) said they had to stay back ‘many times’ beyond duty hours. Further, one-third of the women reported that they had to stay at the police station ‘sometimes’ after their duty hours. With eight of the States surveyed having more than half of the police-women responding as ‘many times’, the picture is gloomy throughout the country.

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Increasing workload, emergency duties and lack of staff were the top three reasons reported by police- women for having to stay beyond the duty hours. Twenty-nine percent of women police personnel reported ‘increasing work load’ or ‘too much of work’, as the main reason. Also, 18 percent reported ‘emergency duties’ as the primary reason for working overtime.

Separate toilets for men and women

With the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign kick-starting in 2014, access to toilets and complete sanitation coverage became buzzwords in the public health domain. In its wake, the construction of toilets in every household became a high-priority agenda for every State. As the mission comes to a close five years later, an alarming truth stares us in the face. Even in 2019 more than one in every five women police personnel (22%) reported as not having a separate toilet at the police stations.

Bihar and Telangana, where three out of every five police-women (61% and 59% respectively) say they don’t have a separate toilet, lead the list. Delhi has the highest availability of separate toilets for women at police stations. Here, 99 percent of the police-women reported as having a separate toilet, closely followed by West Bengal (96%), Jharkhand (95%), Gujarat (94%), Madhya Pradesh (93%) and Haryana (92%).

tasks3Sexual harassment committees

The Sexual Harassment of women at Workplace Act of 2013 makes it mandatory for all workplaces to constitute a committee which will look into sexual harassment complaints faced by their female employees. Nearly one-fourth (24%) of the police women surveyed reported the absence of such a committee in their workplace or jurisdiction. The position is dismal throughout the country.

In 13 of the surveyed States, less than three-fourth of police- women reported the existence of such a committee. Bihar’s situation was the worst, with 76 percent of police-women reporting the absence of such a committee. Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha are better placed, with 79 percent or more police women from these States responding that the committee exists.

It’s important to note, however, that the proportion of ‘no responses’ to this question was very high in several States. While in Nagaland, as many as 28 percent of police-women gave no response to the question, the figures were on the higher side in West Bengal and Kerala as well (17% each). This could indicate the lack of awareness about the committee among policewomen.

Switch the job?

Nearly two in every five police-women (37%) said that they are willing to quit the police force and go for another job if the salary and perks remain the same, indicating a high level of dissatisfaction with their profession. With 63 percent police-women willing to give up their job for an alternative one, which provides them with the same salary and perks, Uttar Pradesh leads the list. It is closely followed by Uttarakhand (54%) and Himachal Pradesh (52%). The dissatisfaction levels were also very high in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Kerala, with almost half of the police-women willing to switch their jobs.

tasks4If we consider the combined figures of all the States, dissatisfaction with a policing job was found to be equal among both men and women. However, on a deeper analysis, more police-women were found to be willing to switch their jobs for another, compared to police-men, in nine of the States surveyed. The gap was found to be maximum in Jharkhand, with 47 percent police-women willing to give up their jobs as against 31 percent police-men.

Police-women in Haryana and Punjab were found to be most satisfied with their jobs, with 86 percent and 79 percent respectively answering ‘no’ to the job-switch question. Interestingly, few States had a high percentage of police-women who were indecisive when asked this question. It is also important to mention that almost one-third of the police-women in West Bengal could neither say ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ on being asked the very same question.

Inequalities within the Police force

More than half of the overall police personnel sample admitted that men and women in police are not ‘completely’ treated equally. On being asked to what extent are women and men police personnel given equal treatment, less than half of the police personnel (44 percent of the police-women and 46 percent of police men) said that they received complete equal treatment.

As many as 28 percent respondents were of the opinion that the equal treatment they received was ‘rarely’ or ‘not at all.’ The responses of male and female police personnel were similar to this question. Police-women posted at higher ranks (Assistant Sub-Inspector, Sub-inspector, Inspector and Circle Inspector) are more likely to feel that male and female police are not treated equally.

Our analysis reveals significant variation across States. In Telangana, women police personnel report the highest level of discrimination with 55 percent police-women saying that they are ‘not at all’ treated equally. In other words, two of every three police-women in Telangana strongly feel that there is unequal treatment. Similarly, in Punjab and Haryana, two of every five police-women (40% in Punjab and 38% in Haryana) reported ‘rarely’ or ‘not at all’ equal treatment.

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In some States, male police personnel’s opinions on this question varied significantly from that of females. A notable difference of 18 percentage points was found in Kerala, with 78 percent of police-men reporting that men and women police personnel are being treated completely equally as against 60 percent of police-women. Other States with notable differences in the responses of men and women in police were Bihar (15%), Chhattisgarh (14%), Jharkhand (12%) and West Bengal (10%).

Prejudices towards women in police

Policing is traditionally considered a man’s job. Not surprisingly, many hold patriarchal prejudices and consider women to be incapable of handling police duties. Their reasons for putting down women are manifold, including their perceived lack of strength, or incapability of handling high intensity cases. They feel women might be better off at homes than working as police-women.

To assess the levels of such deep-seated prejudices against women, we read out three statements to the respondents (both men and women) and asked them if they agree or disagree with them.3 The first statement was ‘being in the police requires physical strength and aggressive behaviour which women lack.’ The second statement was ‘women police are incapable of handling high intensity crimes and cases’. While third and last statement was ‘because of inflexible working hours, it is not alright for women to work in the police force as they cannot attend to homely duties.’

tasks6One in every four male police personnel has a ‘high’ degree of bias against women in police, while a significant proportion of male police personnel were also found to have a ‘medium’ degree of bias (16%). The level of prejudice is relatively lower amongst female police personnel.

Men in police were found to harbour much stronger stereotypes compared to their female counterparts. Male police personnel are more likely to agree with the gender-stereotypical statements (difference of 10 percent points in the high bias category), while police women are much more likely to disagree with such statements (difference of 15 percentage points in the “no bias” category).

States with the highest levels of prejudice among male personnel are Telangana, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and West Bengal. Among these, Telangana, with four in every five, and Bihar, with three in every four policemen being highly prejudiced, fared the worst. On the other hand, male police personnel from Haryana and Odisha (9 and 10 percent respectively had high bias) emerged as the least biased.

Comparing male and female responses State-wise, the differences in opinion were significant in Bihar, with three-fifth of the men surveyed agreeing with all three statements (high bias) and almost an equal proportion of women disagreeing with all the three (no bias). Karnataka was also notable with more than two-fifth of the police-men agreeing with all three, and more than half of the police-women agreeing with none.

Gender sensitisation

In absence of any guidelines with regard to frequency of training, we assumed such training should be given to the police personnel at least once in every five years, to make them aware about the latest developments and to test their efficiencies. Among the male respondents who joined the police force within last five years, 11 percent have received no such training either at the time of joining or afterwards.

Among those police-men who have more than five years of experience in the service, one-third received the training during last two-three years and more than one-third (37%) received it only at the time of joining. Nine percent of the police-men with more than five years of experience never got such training. In other words, close to half (46%) of the police-men with more than five years of experience have either received such training at the time of joining, or not received it at all.

Also, if you have joined the police force within last five years, likelihood of your receiving training on gender sensitisation at the time of joining seems to have improved compared to the others. Across the States, Nagaland provided the least gender sensitisation training, with almost two in every five male police personnel (37%) never receiving any such training.

tasks7This is followed by Gujarat with one in every four male police personnel (24%) never being trained on gender sensitisation. Bihar, with 22 percent, and Assam, with 20 percent, were just slightly better. Conversely, Rajasthan was found to have no male police personnel left untrained with respect to gender sensitization.

Opinion on complaints of gender-based violence

Reporting of cases of gender-based violence in India is abysmally low. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) report of 2015-16 reveals that 99 percent of cases of sexual harassment go unreported. While numerous factors are at play here, including the fear of social stigma, disbelief by police personnel is also a major contributing factor.

The problem is exacerbated with police unwilling to file complaints or follow due procedures. Recent laws such as the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 make it mandatory for the police to file all cases of sexual abuse, yet cases of non-registration are not uncommon.

One in every five police personnel is of the opinion that complaints of gender-based violence are false and motivated to a very high extent (responding ‘many’ for all the four questions), while almost an equal number of police personnel believe the complaints to be false and motivated to a high extent. There was very little variation on the opinions of male and female police personnel on this issue.

Six of the States, namely, Delhi, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Assam were found to have about half or more police personnel who believed that complaints related to gender-based violence are false and motivated to ‘a very high’ or to ‘a high’ extent (around 10 percentage points higher than the national average). On the other hand, States like Kerala, Telangana, Nagaland and Odisha had less than 10 percent police personnel with the “to a very high extent” response.

Prejudices towards transgender and Hijra community

A little less than one in 10 police personnel feel that Hijras and transgender people are naturally prone towards committing crimes very much. More than a quarter (27%) police personnel feel that they are ‘somewhat’ naturally inclined towards committing crimes. A similar proportion of police personnel (25%), however, believe that Hijras and trangenders are ‘not at all’ naturally inclined towards committing crimes.

On State-wise comparison, we found Andhra Pradesh to have maximum respondents (both male and female) with 18 percent responding as ‘very much’ and 51 percent responding as ‘somewhat’. Uttar Pradesh found have second highest number of respondents reporting as ‘very much’ (18%) followed by Maharashtra and Telanagana (17% each).

However, on combining responses under ‘very much’ and ‘somewhat’ categories, Maharashtra (17% ‘very much’ and 38% ‘somewhat’) was found to be second after Andhra Pradesh. Odisha, Himachal and Punjab had more than two-fifth reporting as ‘not at all’ to the question.

Download full report HERE

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