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A force for women

As the all women police station comes to Haryana, the experience of other states offers lessons of possibilities, limits

By: Express News Service |
Updated: August 29, 2015 12:10:42 am

The Haryana government has done well to recognise that the rate of crimes committed against women in the state is serious enough to warrant special measures. On Friday, the government inaugurated 21 all women police stations (AWPSs), one for each state district. These police stations, each with a total strength of 30 policewomen, will deal with a range of crimes against women, including rape, molestation, offences under the anti-dowry act, fraudulent marriages and others. When Indira Gandhi, then prime minister, opened the first AWPS in Kozhikode, Kerala, in 1973, the idea was ahead of its time. In the early 1990s, Tamil Nadu warmed to the idea that women complainants find it easier to talk to policewomen than to policemen. Today there are more than 500 AWPSs in India. Studies have shown that the reporting of offences against women has gone up wherever AWPSs have come up. In Haryana, a deeply patriarchal society, with the worst sex ratio in the country due to the continued prevalence of female foeticide, the incidence of crimes against women is 73 for every one lakh women in the state, among the highest in the country, per NCRB statistics for 2014. Expect that number to go up next year as more women feel better able to report domestic violence, or rape, or harassment for dowry at an AWPS, rather than a police station staffed with men.

The prevention of crimes against women, however, is a different game. It depends on the success rate of the prosecution of the crimes, which is often dependent upon how effectively the police can rise above their own upbringing and milieu to investigate these crimes. It depends upon the swiftness with which the judicial process deals with the cases and is able to punish the perpetrators. From the numbers the NCRB puts out, AWPSs have not been able to stem the rising graph of crimes against women. In Tamil Nadu, which has the largest number of AWPSs in the country, the incidence of crimes against women is low compared to other states, but has risen since 1995.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Tamil Nadu AWPSs, primarily meant to deal with dowry cases, see dispute “resolution” as their main function. As a result, they tend to turn into kangaroo courts, as prone to corrupt practices as their male counterparts. The policewomen, as much as policemen, lack professional training in handling crimes against women and depend on custom rather than law to deal with complaints.

Haryana, a latecomer to AWPSs, has the advantage of learning from the experience of other states. Of course, there is nothing better than a desegregated system in which policewomen are as well represented as policemen and both are trained to deal with women complainants professionally. This is the scenario to move towards.

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