It was one of those wintry January mornings when I was walking towards college and this was a few weeks after the city of Delhi and the entire nation was shaken by the terrible gangrape incident. A PCR van was standing right outside the college gate, where it usually is supposed to be. There however was something unusual about the whole setting – I saw a lady in uniform standing beside the van, a policewoman of course. She was certainly thin and conspicuously had the features of a North Indian female, but there was this inexplicable sturdiness that she possessed. She looked strong like her male counterparts, but the ‘bindi’ on her forehead retained her femininity. She caught me eyeing her and smiled; I smiled back and walked inside the campus with this sudden sense of pride in being a woman. That tiny bit of joy was however, impaired a little while later as I learnt that females in our police force make up for a dismal five percent only.
Female representation in the police force has always been a mark of a progressive nation. Every time I see a lady cop, I feel a little safer than usual considering the plethora of instances where male police officers have themselves been responsible for violence against women. We might call ourselves a developing country, but is a five percent representation enough? Is it even acceptable in the first place? There have been countless heated debates and discussions around the issue of equality for both genders, so why does the same vanish into thin air when it comes to women in the police force in India? Doesn’t the word ‘policeman’ immediately pop into our heads every time we think of the profession? Where did the ‘woman’ go?
Heck, in a country like ours, being women, with our fragile, delicate selves does not make us competent enough to join the police force- one that reeks of masculinity and demands physical power. We are always supposed to be the submissive and subordinate ones. Rearing children and doing all the household chores are what women in India are meant for. Why else do you think that a working woman is still looked down upon by a major section of the society? Forget the invincible Kali and Durga, who essentially symbolize the strength that a female is capable of possessing, it is a common perception that men are the only ones who can be good and efficient police officers.
We probably are too perfect a nation. So we do not want to cater to rape victims who otherwise would have been a lot more comfortable reporting instances of rape to female officers who would be able to empathize with them. We would want our women to be stronger and more capable of putting up with insensitive and ridiculous questions that are thrown at them by the all powerful policemen. We would want our women to have their characters dissected and being subjected to ten times the trauma that they had to go through while being sexually assaulted.
I am in no way trying to discount the fact that there have been times when female police officers have been equally insensitive when it came to dealing with issues concerning the fairer sex in particular (consider the protests after the gangrape for example). However, one cannot deny that these few incidents have been countered by a million others where a woman has been more understanding, more compassionate and more considerate. Probably, if it was a female cop who saw the deplorable condition that the gangrape victim and her friend were in, on that chilly night of the 16th of December, she would have taken immediate action instead of deliberating as to which police station the case belonged to. She would probably have understood the excruciating pain the brave heart had undergone and possibly done the right thing at the right time.
Sadly, we consider ourselves too accomplished, too adept a nation to pay heed to the fact that women are naturally inclined to following rules, so they are bound to be less corrupt. We probably are way too content with what we are today and are therefore happy with the five percent representation of women in the police force. How are we supposed to close the gap when our sensibilities do not allow us to do so? How will we close the gap unless we broaden our outlook and coerce our representatives into increasing the number of female police officers?
According to a 2006 report by the Institute for the Study of Civil Society: “A nation with a larger proportion of police officers is somewhat more likely to have a lower crime rate,” and adding women to the same will only solve the problem in a much better way. So send your daughters to school, nurture them and encourage them to become unyielding. Girls do not need to be physically strong only in order to defend themselves, they have the ability to protect millions by virtue of their power. Let us work towards creating more ‘Chulbuli Pandeys‘ instead of the regular Chulbuls now, shall we?