A case for more policewomen

  • IASbaba
  • March 18, 2020
  • 0
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Society & Governance

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

A case for more policewomen

Context: India persists with a male-dominated police force. 

In 2009 the Home Ministry set 33% as the target for women’s representation in the police.

Present Status of Women in Police

  • Inadequate representation: In 2019, women comprised less than 10% of police personnel.
  • Only seven States (Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Sikkim) had more than 10% policewomen. 
  • Slow pace of women intake: There has been only a 5% increase in the number of policewomen in a decade (3.65% in 2009 to 8.98% in 2019).
  • The annual change in the share of women in the police force from 2012 to 2016 was found to be less than 1% across States, according to the India Justice Report, 2019
  • At this rate, most States will take over 50 years to achieve the 33% target.

Selective Implementation

  • Although States have adopted the reservation policy, they are very selective about its implementation. 
  • Restrictive Reservations: Very few States apply reservation for women at all the entry points (constable, sub-inspector, and deputy superintendent of police levels) or to all posts at each level. 
    • Some States (Kerala and Karnataka) have reservation for women only at the constable rank. 
    • Some (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu) extend it to the constable and sub-inspector ranks. But here too there are restrictions: reservation is limited to specific cadre posts within each rank.

Consequence of Selective Implementation

  • Huge disparity in the representation of women across ranks
  • Inadequate Women at Top decision making level: There are far fewer women at the gazetted ranks at the State level (assistant sub-inspector to deputy superintendent of police) than those at the constabulary level. 
    • This means that women are most prominent in the most junior ranks.
    • Women remain in large numbers at the bottom of the ladder without moving up.
  • Inefficient Policing: As a consequence, there are not enough women personnel to perform exclusive functions when gender-based crimes are reported
    • For instance, in 2013, the Home Ministry said that at least three women sub-inspectors should be available in a police station as investigating officers. 
    • Tamil Nadu, which has the highest percentage of women personnel (17.46%), requires 6,057 women sub-inspectors to meet this standard across its 2,019 police stations. 
    • At present, it has barely one-fourth of that requirement.

Other Challenges for Women Police Officers

  • Women are typecast — for example, they are asked to deal with crimes against women, while they are kept outside the mainstream of varied experiences
    • As a result, new recruits will become increasingly ghettoised in the absence of a framework to guide their career path.
  • Frequent inter-district transfers
  • Disallowing postings in home districts for specified periods of time 
  • Poor childcare support systems 
  • Lack of basic amenities like toilets, uncomfortable duty gear (designed mainly for men) and inadequate privacy.
  • Policing sub-culture, with its association with “masculinity” and coercive force, has impacted the mental pressure on women police officers

Way Forward

  • Effective implementation of Reservation Policy at all levels to increase the number of women in Police department
  • Gender sensitization among the Police Personnel and also among the public
  • Gender-friendly gadgets and clothes.
  • State- funded special health checkup for women personnel like pap smear tests (for cervical cancer), mammography (for breast cancer) and tests for estimation of bone density, 
  • Sanitary pad dispensers should be installed at all women posts and portable toilets be provided to them under the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission.
  • More creches, school pickup and drop facilities for children and clean living quarters and toilet facilities


  • Increasing the number of recruits alone will not be enough; institutional changes embedded in principles of diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunities are as important. Otherwise, discrimination and exclusion will continue to persist even as the numbers of women increase.

Connecting the dots

  • Women in Judiciary
  • 33% Reservation for Women in Parliament and State legislature

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