Delicate touch to a tough job
The job of women police does not stop with just maintaining law and order. They also counsel women in distress, says GEETA VARMA.
THE ALL-woman police station, Thousand Lights, Chennai, was the first among such stations established in the early 1990s. It was set up mainly to deal with crimes against women, particularly violence related to dowry, besides those related to family disputes and marital problems, civil disputes, false promises of marriage, sexual assault or rape and kidnapping.
It is three in the afternoon way past lunch-time. It is quiet inside the ACP's room, but outside, there is some confusion. A group of people are talking loudly and a couple of policewomen are trying to silence them, perhaps to solve a dispute. Meanwhile, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Annie Vijaya, has been busy in a meeting, making arrangements for a bandobust.
The people come in; only two out of the disputing group is allowed to enter the room. The conversation that follows is interesting. ``Please help. We've made all the arrangements for the wedding. We've even distributed cards. Only two days are left.'' ``But you can still stop the wedding,'' the ACP says. ``It's not too late... "
The bride's party does not agree, but since the case is registered, they have only two options: to listen to the police counselling or let the law take its own course.
It is a case of cheating. The bridegroom has made false promises to another girl before settling for this marriage. It is the bride's party who is grieving. The girl who loved him has lodged a complaint. The groom's side is maintaining a silence.
Annie Vijaya, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Anti Dowry Cell, is in charge of the Thousand Lights women's police station, the first such unit in Tamil Nadu.
According to her, women police have to be patient and gentle, at the same time firm with their clients.
For example, when a woman in distress approaches the police for help, she is in a state of shock, but she will open up to another woman. That's the advantage of being a police woman.
Once the complaint is filed, the first objective of the investigation is to achieve reconciliation between the parties without going to court. Generally people fear the law and long-drawn court cases. Therefore, there is always the hope of finding a solution. The police try to help.
As a career person, a policewoman is no different from any other working woman.
She has to balance her priorities between home and work. It is a matter of interest and dedication.
Vasanthi, who has been in service for 29 years, has many interesting stories to share. She feels proud and says that one has to be polite and kind to those who come for help.
More often than not, women find it difficult to approach the police. They hesitate to go to the station. In such cases, the police can visit them, provided they are informed. For that, there is a helpline (1091). Often, women in distress call and speak to the officer. Even a neighbour can use this number posing as an informant, without revealing his or her identity. Sometimes this kind of interference becomes a necessity.
There are cases where women get married to people working abroad who may already have wives there. Also, it is difficult to handle cases related to alcohol.
IPC Sections 417, 419 and 420 relate to cases of cheating; IPC 376 to rape, and 509 to eve teasing. Once the case is over, there are various NGOs who help the police such as Marialaya, Abhayanilayam, the Banyan and Udavum Karangal.
Some of the cases registered are quite interesting. A mother-in-law came with a strange complaint. She wanted her husband to get back the necklace he had given to their daughter-in-law as it was actually a 60th birthday gift he had given her.
She found it delicate to communicate her feelings at home and so she approached the police. In another case, a couple remained separated for two years because their parents and other relatives would not forego certain rituals. The police offered a solution.
Tamil Nadu seems to be the only State, which has so many women's police stations.
Why aren't the other States following this, considering that it is beneficial to society? Answering the question, Jija Hari Sing, IPS, New Delhi, says, "Generally, the States follow the policy of having women police stations. I don't have the statistics of all these places." Commenting on the role of women as police personnel, Sing says, "You have to understand there are two categories when it comes to recruitment. The first has been in existence from the 1930s or 1940s (I think, it was in 1934, the first woman police constables were recruited in the imperial Mysore State). These people have been used traditionally to escort women personnel and to handle offences relating to women and children. In the same category, but either by promotion or direct selection as sub-inspectors, women have entered service and are functioning in Law and Order, Traffic and Crime, and Investigation areas. A large number of them work in the police control rooms and telephone exchanges. Airport security is another area of operation."
Sing continues, "The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is perhaps the first Central police organisation which recruited and trained women at the junior levels. The second category would be of women officers, principally IPS officers. I am aware that in a few States like J&K, women have been recruited at the DSP level. Women IPS officers have a dual role to play: as Police Officers and as role models and facilitators for empowering women police in their own State. Interestingly, an article on this would be relevant at present as the first National Conference for Women in Police, with the aim of forging a new future for women in Police, was recently held."
On the role of the public in creating a secure society, Sing was of the opinion that "they have to play a very pro-active role in aiding security agencies in preventing offences and in investigation. Towards this, community policing in urban areas and defence parties and other such institutions have been established all over the country.
Women should take adequate precautions when it comes to certain aspects. Like they should not display wealth while travelling. They must keep a list of their valuables kept at home and periodically check them. They should also be aware that just in case something is stolen, there is only a 20 to 30 per cent chance of the material being recovered. Once the thing is lost, they should be able to think logically and assist the police."
"All States have women police. I have not come across any State that doesn't. Even before Independence, there were women police in most of the States. The male bosses wouldn't allow women IPS officers to take an interest in gender issues.
But times have changed and it is time India has women police associations like in the U.K. and U.S.A. to take up gender issues and make women police more effective, for the greater benefit of society.
(Ms Jija Madhavan Hari Sing, IPS, is based in Delhi and is the second woman IPS officer after Kiran Bedi.)
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