Women cops, especially in lower ranks, are struggling against discrimination in Madhya Pradesh. Though they are more acceptable in the force now than in the past, they still face a “hegemonic” mindset.
It comes from their male counterparts and also from the higher-ups, who are often not sensitive to their needs – be it family needs or even basic facilities like a proper toilet for women.
In 2013, the Madhya Pradesh government took a bold step and issued a guideline saying that there should be 30% women in the police force and every police station has at least 10 female constables and three female sub-inspectors.
So now there are about 105,000 policewomen which constitute about 6% of the total police force, and they are still form a very small minority in the force. Most of the women constables we talked to were unwilling to come on record for fear of being victimised later on, though a few have been brave enough to come on record.
One of major discriminations they face is that both their senior officers and male counterparts do not think that they will be able to execute a tough job.
‘We’re expected to do the paper work and are denied field work’
“We are just expected to do the table or paper work and are denied field work or frontline policing, because the mindset is that we are unfit for it. Mostly we are given cases involving women, which is non- utilization of their potential,” a woman ASI said.
Like their male counterparts, the female cops too face long hours of work and no virtual holidays.
‘Being women, the expectations of the family are more from us’
“But being women, the expectations of the family, especially children are more from us and we have to fulfil them leading to great stress,” a female constable posted in a police station said. According to most female cops, raising kids becomes very difficult. With that kind of responsibility, they have delayed their pregnancies several times and many have not married yet.
‘Most police stations do not have a separate ladies washroom’
The working condition is not great. Most police stations do not have a separate ladies washroom. Even the Mahila thana does not have a separate washroom. “It is very stressful to use the same common toilet,” a female constable at the Mahila thana said.
Often senior officers just do not take of their basic needs even when sending them outstation. “I was sent to Chindwara with 200 men and was the only woman. With the lodging and food facility being improper, I had to sleep in the bus every night” said a female head constable.
There is also sexual harassment, though it is rarely reported and sometimes it is subtle.
“During my early years of job our senior made me sit and work excessively the whole day in his office and did not let me go and sit anywhere else even if I insisted,” said a female ASI on being sexually harassed. “They will touch you improperly and will deliberately try to talk obscene stuff in front of you, but you have to be strong and make them mend their ways”, she added
Constable Prem Lata Singh from Alirajpur said that she somehow managed to get a maternity leave for six month but could not get child care leave (a provision of extending maternity leave by 1-2 months) despite complaining several times about it.
Thanas lack basic facilities, admits ASP Anjana Tiwari
Anjana Tiwari, additional SP, Headquarters, said the problem is that most women are not mentally prepared for the duty. A woman is always expected to fulfil her job both as a cop and also as a mother/wife. With that kind of burden they themselves don’t want to do frontline policing or night duties. But if somebody is willing, I am sure she is not stopped. She said it is true that most thanas lack such facilities. But newly constructed police stations are coming up with ladies washroom. The problem persists only in old police stations.
The ASP said cases of sexual harassment have come up but they have been very few in number and proper action has always been taken. I have addressed four cases so far. The situation has improved over the years but nowadays I also see a lack of conduct in women officials as well, like not wearing proper uniform, improper body language.
Few cases of discrimination, says SP Manisha Soni
Manisha P soni, SP, Police training centre, said the incident of a female constable being sent to Chhindwara with 200 men where she had to sleep in the bus every night seems to be exceptional. As it is we send women only when it is mandatory and also we always make sure to send women in groups and I personally direct the TI of that place to arrange for all the facilities for them. If any of them faces such problem they can call me personally and I make sure to resolve such issues.
The SP said there is a woman committee headed only by women officers in Madhya Pradesh. I and Anjana Tiwari are both in it; its function is only to address such cases. With this kind of training and counselling if women don’t even hold courage of speaking up then it’s their lack of personality. She said here at PTS we have gender sensitisation in our syllabus, seminars are regularly held on gender equality. I personally take all the counselling sessions. Female heads area appointed everywhere from the classroom to ground to attend to small matters otherwise they can come up to me. With this kind of grooming if they still are scared, it’s their fault.