We hear the phrase ‘sensitisation of the police’ in connection with the safety and rights of women often but time and again we have seen that it is almost meaningless in this regard.
UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has expressed her concern over violence against women and urged civil society to be proactive in creating a safe environment for them while she was at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi recently.
But along with this we need a police force that can empathise with women who have to exist in a hostile environment on a daily basis.
That sensitivity is not one of the hallmarks of the police was evident from a recent incident when the Ghaziabad police arrested a young woman along with her male friend when they were caught allegedly drinking in a car.
The woman was taken to a police station after sunset, in clear violation of the norms, and a male police officer slapped her in the presence of several women officers. The police then went on to allow a vigilante resident in the area to slap her as well.
Drinking in a public place is a punishable crime, but this in no way gives the right to the police to use physical force against an offender.
In a new low, in Madhya Pradesh, male officers of the government railway police in Ujjain forced a woman passenger and her brother to strip on the suspicion of a theft in the general coach of the Indore-Ratlam passenger train on Monday evening.
In Mandsaur district, in a brazen cover-up to save an affluent upper caste man, accused of raping and setting on fire a 14-year-old Dalit girl, the police claimed that the girl tried to commit suicide.
The huge public protests after the December 16 Delhi gangrape, many had hoped, would bring about a change in the police attitude towards crimes against women and women’s rights.
But these ghastly incidents suggest that nothing has really changed. Adding to the police insensitivity are statements of the sort made by the Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Barkha Singh, who did not find anything wrong with the police’s handling, rather mishandling of the hapless girl in the Ghaziabad incident.
She justified the action saying, “We should be strict with our children. And if that girl was drunk and to make her understand, police has taken some steps then I don’t think that it is wrong.”
It may be Utopian to expect that the police will become gender sensitive at a pace that would be desirable.
But at the very least, they should implement the law as it is and not resort to arbitrary and illegal behaviour as they did in the Ghaziabad case.
The first thing that the police perhaps need to learn is the law that they are supposed to implement, if that is not asking for too much.