The lack of women in the police force is worrying
Better representation will make policing more effective and humane
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, the glaring lack of women police personnel raises important questions about effective policing in society.
A 2015 Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) report titled ‘Rough Roads to Equality: Women Police in South Asia’ found that in Jharkhand, the state police manual itself subordinates the role of women . It specifies that women officers “are not to be substituted” for male officers but must only be deployed for specific tasks 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, rather than by force. In such a model, representation in the police force of the religions, castes, and genders of society is vitally important. 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 society. 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.