‘I Know Your Menstruation Dates’: Male Officer Accused Of Harassing Women Police Trainees

Posted on August 29, 2016 in Cake, Cake News, Sexism And Patriarchy

By Cake Staff:

A few days ago, reports had surfaced about a police training academy in Chhattisgarh regarding its questionable training practices for its female trainees.

The Chankuri Police Training Academy situated near Raipur has a batch of 32 women who were until recently reportedly subjected to harassment by a male trainer who has been identified as Neelkanth Sahu, an outdoor in-charge who has the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP).

According to the complaint, some of the charges against Sahu include shaming and humiliation by questioning their last dates of menstruation based on what was recorded in his register and ensuring that the menstruating trainees stand out of the queue during training. He has been quoted by the complainant as saying, “Tell me how menstruation takes place? I know each of your menstruation dates. All of you lie to escape the training. My wife never suffers from stomach cramps during periods. You just talk rubbish.”

This was in addition to charges of allegedly pulling the hair of female trainees and getting them to come out of a swimming pool for a ‘head count’. Moreover, a pregnant trainee was questioned by Sahu whether she was actually pregnant or not because she didn’t seem to have a swollen stomach. Sahu has also been accused of thrusting his cane below the belt of a trainee on the pretext of ‘removing dirt’ – something that can be done on verbal command.

The above complaints came to light when the State Women Commission had visited the Academy only to find out that the only action that was taken against Sahu was a quick transfer to the police headquarters ordered by the Director of Chhattisgarh State Police Academy. This action was taken only after a joint complaint, signed by the 32-member batch, was submitted to the senior authorities.

In a country where 49% of the population are women, it already speaks volumes when only 6% of the police forces in India are women.  In addition to that, less than 1% of female police officers hold senior positions and 90% of them are constables, mostly relegated to desk jobs (few states officially direct their forces to keep women in such lower/’special’ positions).

However, incidents of abuse in the institutions of the police and the military are not unheard of and are in fact, rampant but underreported, all across the world. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that many of these complaints are handled by special tribunals, that mostly consist of men and are relatively independent from enforcing laws that regular citizens are subjected to. The result is that many of these women complainants are either forced to withdraw their complaint and silenced or they are subjected to intense scrutiny.

The fields of police and military, which entail the use of force has long been seen as an exclusively male domain and this continues to be the case in many parts of the world. Therefore when such a domain is used to train in a particular manner, the entry of women into the field is thereby treated as something that has to conform to existing ideas of what constitutes ‘strict’ training. Differential methods are negatively seen as ‘special treatment’.

Moreover, despite numerous attempts to increase female participation including the opening up of combat positions for women, there still continues to be highly misogynistic arguments against the capabilities of women to serve in the police/military. While the stereotype of women being gentle persists, another argument used against them is that somehow menstruation can hinder their performance, despite no real evidence to prove the same. This argument has similarly been made for many fields including that of political positions and is seen as a basis for severe gender pay gap as well.

If we want more women in our forces, both police and military, we need to create conducive environments, where difference is accommodated, not shunned.