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9 Kickass Women IPS Officers Paving The Way For A Gender-Equal Police Force

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A police officer’s work is crucial for the smooth functioning of any region. Their task? To enforce the law in a fair and just manner, to intervene in cases of rights violations, and, above all, to keep citizens safe. Members of the Indian Police Service have to prove their mettle by confronting a number of major crimes, both within and without their places of work. To shoulder these responsibilities as a woman in a male-dominated force takes even more gumption. In 1972, Kiran Bedi became the first woman to set off on that journey. And since then, we’ve had more kickass female IPS officers follow suit. These are their stories:

IPS officer Rema Rajeshwari

Rema Rajeshwari

Currently posted as the District Chief Police in Telangana, she became the first female IPS officer from her home town, Munnar in 2008. She writes regularly about sexual harassment, rape culture, and the need for gender-friendly workplaces. And her ideas carry over into her work, as she organises sensitisation trainings for fellow officers. Not only this, her crucial interventions have given trafficked women and children a new lease on life, they have rescued child brides and joginis from abuse.

And now, Rajeshwari is at the helm of fighting a new evil – fake news. At a time when rumours on WhatsApp and other social media platforms are abound, without bothering to verify sources, citizens have taken to brutalising and even murdering people suspected of a crime. The trend poses a significant challenge to law enforcers, but Rajeshwari is on the case!

IPS officer Rema Rajeshwari will be speaking at the Youth Ki Awaaz Summit on September 1 and 2. To watch her live, apply to attend here.

Roopa Divakar Moudgil

Also the first IPS officer in her state, Karnataka, she holds the position of Inspector General Police. Two-time President’s Police Medal awardee, Moudgil played a key role in exposing the VIP treatment given to politicians like Sasikala while serving their jail terms. For going against powerful figures, she even faced privilege motions for this, but didn’t let it get in the way of doing her job.

Another pursuit of Moudgil’s is the fight against sexism in the bureaucracy. She notes that the few women in the IPS are kept from prestigious positions. And, because the idea that women aren’t as competent as men is widespread, even those women who do hold high ranks face insubordination from male officers.

Sanjukta Parashar

As soon as JNU graduate Sanjukta Parashar became a part of the IPS, she made an indelible mark. Not only is she the first and only woman officer in Assam, but her first assignment as Assistant Commandant of Makum in 2008 made her the bane of militants’ existence in the area. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, she made 64 arrests.

In her capacity as an officer, she encourages more young people to join the IPS and make a difference. She also has a particularly interesting way of law enforcement, when it comes to traffic safety in Jorhat. Anurag Kotoky tweeted, “Sanjukta Parashar, the popular SP in Jorhat, now apparently offers candies to two wheeler riders who wear helmets.”

Sonia Narang

A Lokayukta, or public ombud, is appointed in every state to combat corruption and maladministration. In Karnataka, things started going horribly wrong when the Lokayukta Justice Y. Bhaskar Rao’s son Y. Ashwin was exposed as a kingpin in a big extortion scam. Narang played a key role in Ashwin’s arrest.

R. Sreelakha

Not one to kowtow to the absurd belief that women can’t do policework, Sreelakha became the first woman Director General of Police, the highest rank, in her home state, Kerala. This was in the ‘80s, a time when women were particularly resentful of IPS, following several incidents of officers sexually assaulting or raping women. And so, she set off on the path to change the police force’s relationship with women. Along with this, she also pushed for the police force to recruit more women.

Sreelakha has braved the sexism inherent in the police force. A senior officer in Kerala once remarked, “A lady has come to pollute the department.” And many people told her that becoming a police officer meant she wouldn’t find a husband. But she was determined to overcome all this, and is now batting for more women to have the opportunity she had.

Archana Ramasundaram

In 2016, IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram became the first woman to be appointed as the Director General of the Sashastra Seema Bal, India’s paramilitary force based at the Nepal and Bhutan borders. At present, her job is to monitor and intervene in trans-border crimes like trafficking. Under her direction, four new checkposts in West Bengal and Bihar have been erected.

Since her appointment, female personnel have also found it easier to approach a superior for leave and transfer requests.

Meeran Chadha Borwankar

Now retired, she was the first woman IPS officer in Maharashtra, and the first woman Police Commissioner in Pune, Meeran Borwankar made headlines when she investigated the shocking Jalgaon sex scandal in the early ‘90s. Women and girls in the area were picked up and raped by influential men (some with political backing), who then blackmailed them into silence with photos and videotapes. It was an eye-opening moment for her, and she said: “The Jalgaon sex scandal also convinced me of the need to sensitise police officers/staff about the issues of girls/women and to have many more women officers and staff, if we wish to cater to the needs of women in distress.”

IPS officer Vijayanta Goyal Arya

Vijayanta Goyal Arya

No matter what line of work you’re in, as a woman you will run into all manner of patriarchal and sexist rubbish, and it’s something Vijayanta Arya doesn’t stand for. As Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Delhi), Arya has spoken up about the many ways in which women officers are made to feel unsafe or vulnerable on the job, whether it is within the police force, or out on the streets during work. Fighting sexual harassment and making public spaces safer for women is her top agenda right now.

She is an example for thousands of IPS aspirants and young people wanting to be the change they wish to see.

IPS officer Vijayanta Arya will be speaking at the Youth Ki Awaaz Summit on September 1 and 2. To watch her live, apply to attend here.

Vimla Mehra

1091, the women’s helpline, four digits that so many of us have committed to memory. Did you know that it was introduced by IPS Vimla Mehra as the head of Crime against Women Cell? The 1978 IPS graduate has continually worked for the cause of women. In 2013, as Director General of Delhi Prisons, Vimla Mehra decided to introduce foreign language courses and vocational training for women inmates and undertrials in Tihar Jail.

In another similar bid for reformative justice, Mehra started a fashion course in 2012, for inmates to learn to design clothes, which were then sold by TJ, Tihar’s brand. Her goal is to make jail a more human place, that encourages inmates to pursue good, honest work after release.

Last year, she became the first woman Special Commissioner of Police.

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  1. Wistful Wishful

    This article was a refreshing read Shambhavi! I’d like to mention Aswathy Dorje who is presently with the Mumbai Police as Additional Commissioner of Thane Police I think. Do look her up 🙂

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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