What is going on in society,” Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh asked after listing out the number of crimes against women, at a discussion on women’s safety earlier this month.
Singh didn’t answer the question but gave us a few pearls of his home-grown wisdom during that discussion: “countries with sex education in their curriculum have an increased number of crimes against women”, “rape is more common than smoking (in America), according to a report I have”, and “moral education must be imparted…family values must be inculcated”.
That the city’s police commissioner sounds like some of the country’s misogynists we heard over the last month should make us, women, uncomfortable.
The Mumbai Police, despite the presence of women constables and officers, has shown time and again that it is not a force sympathetic to women complainants or ruthless about tackling crimes against women.
A gender-sensitive cop is a rare breed. The good commissioner, it seems, is no exception.
In fact, gender sensitisation of the force is a recurring theme every few years or months. The number of such sensitisation workshops in the last decade alone should have given us an ultra-sensitive force but it hasn’t.
A friend who has been a resource person at some of these workshops offers reasons for their lack of impact: workshops are seen as a day’s sentence rather than learning, women rather than men are deputed to attend, junior cops aren’t willing to accept statistics or findings, senior cops challenge resource persons on their presentations and cite lack of resources to implement suggestions.
There is no accountability on gender sensitisation, nothing to track changes in their policing behaviour, she says.
Perhaps the commissioner would like to put in place a mechanism by which he can make sure that the gender sensitisation workshops being planned now will, indeed, yield tangible results?
Perhaps the commissioner himself would like to attend a few sessions to re-set his gender compass? If my commissioner blames sex education and lack of moral education for rising crimes against women, then it’s fair to surmise that he is not all that different, or more evolved, than the force he heads.
The commissioner has his task cut out. Crimes against women — rape, molestation, sexual harassment, dowry deaths, kidnapping and attempts to commit murder for dowry — increased even as the overall crime rate remained static or decreased marginally in the last few years. It’s possible that increased reporting led to the rise in numbers but it cannot be disregarded.
Mumbai had the highest number of rape cases, 221, registered in Maharashtra in 2011; 231 last year. Besides, Mumbai Police reported 553 molestation cases, 162 sexual harassment cases and 191 cases under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, according to the Criminal Investigation Department statistics.
“In sexual harassment and molestation, conviction rates are as low as 5.4 and 7.7 per cent respectively. This calls for introspection by the executive and supervisory officers of the investigation wing,” stated the report.
Singh, during that discussion, stated that the gender-insensitive force had been to about 350 schools to “spread awareness” after the Delhi gang rape, a not-so-comforting endeavour and said: “My considered view is that we must bring about a change in our education pattern”. No arguments there at all. But how about a parallel, and urgent, change in our policing pattern, Mr Commissioner?