How Important is the Police Role in Curbing Crimes against Women

AIbEiAIAAABDCNHI9JDL38HrYSILdmNhcmRfcGhvdG8qKGRmZjM3Y2IyNGFiNzVkYTE5Y2QxOWM5YjVjZDg5YzZhODkzY2FhYmYwAeb12e_1DLWxFoaTlOyiwl7aGBdwThe National Family and Health Surveys have been compiling a mass of data on fertility, infant and child mortality, the practice of family planning, maternal and child health, reproductive health, nutrition, anaemia, utilization and quality of health and family planning services, in India, through representative household surveys since 1992. Some questions in these surveys, on health of women in the household, lead to descriptions of household violence against women. A study of a comparison of household violence against women,( http://www.ideasforindia.in/Article.aspx?article_id=105#sthash.VDcmCKoB.dpuf), from the National Family and Health Survey-3 and the corresponding crime reported in the relevant period’s annual compilation of the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB), shows that there is a wide disparity in crime measured in household survey data and crime recorded in police stations. This study has discovered an under reporting of serious assaults to married women in their households, being in the range of 14-28% and the under reporting of less severe assaults to be in the range of 41-58%. It also says, ‘If the police records were the weathervane for gender equity, then West Bengal and Kerala would be considered some of the worst states to be a woman while Bihar, UP and Odisha would look like good places.’

These figures disturb me. The extent of under reporting in both-the severe as well as less severe physical assaults-on married women in their marital homes means two things: 1. That women victims are not reporting many of these crimes to police because their cultural socialization tells them to expect and tolerate abuse in their marital homes, and 2. That police stations officers are not trained to overcome their own cultural socialization bias of tolerance to such abuse, to sensitively handle these complaints and ensure enforcement of a law promulgated to punish a widely prevalent social evil.

What is the way forward on this problem? The solution starts with internalizing the fact that this is a social crime and not merely a crime of passion or crime for profit. The inhuman practices of dowry, preference for male children and following from that, the lower status of women in households all across India, result in street as well as household crimes against women. The current sole focus in public debates, on police reluctance in registering these offences and investigating them, could therefore be unsatisfactory as far as changing the social mindset on this social problem, goes. Since the police training has not made fundamental changes to the policeman’s thinking about this issue , from the way the Indian society at large thinks, the police actions are reluctant and even where actions are taken, they do not appear to have much effect on the size of the victimization numbers. A more comprehensive training in police training schools, on dealing with women complainants, will certainly influence positively, the attitude of policemen at their workplaces. But it can only be a partial and insufficient solution to the concerns on this issue.

What could be more effective is for women to act collaboratively against abuse. This could involve bringing women together as a support group, locally, to collaborate on raising a ‘heard’ voice against household violence. Such support groups can also raise awareness amongst women locally, for reporting the crime and getting police stations to enforce the law on such crimes, besides providing emotional support to the victimized women. Though there is reservation for women in local panchayats, there is still no local level organized ‘lobby’ for enforcing the equality for women enshrined in our laws, only individual voices, individual victims.

Simultaneously, the government could also look at this social crime from the angle of public health (as is evident from the above quoted study done on the NFHS surveys), besides the current view as being only a law enforcement problem.  It is a social practice that is affecting the physical and mental health of our nation’s next generation.

There is hope for a cultural change in the undercurrent of simmering national anger against acts of abuse and violence on our ‘mothers, sisters and daughters’.

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7 thoughts on “How Important is the Police Role in Curbing Crimes against Women

  1. Dear Madam,

    I am from the 98 batch IAS, Karnataka. Your writings make so much sense to me. I agree with you that we need to make the women ‘lobbys’ at the street level. Will the ‘mobile phones’ help the women to get connected easily?

    At the same time, the lobby will take things seriously, only if they know that, a complaint wt the police station will bring some result. With the archaic legal and judicial system, we can hardly expect any credible initiative.

    Ofcourse, we need to make fresh laws on this, as the British law maker’s focus was never the ‘domestic issues’.

    We need to have a movement where the women is respected and then protected. It starts from the government, which is supposed to lead the society on such issues.

    i hope NPA will take women related seriously, as much as LBSNAA has also has to do similar job.

    Thanks for writing about this very important issue ma’am!

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    1. I think we have enough laws and a large enforcement machinery to take care of the punitive end of our concerns on women’s’ violence. A good support group set up, can make not only enforcement a reality but also most importantly, organize society against the practice of this evil. The fear against this practice should come not only from law enforcement but also from the society itself. The zero tolerance of domestic violence by the society will lead to more equity for women in all areas and also lower women related crime. Therefore my suggestion for local level womens’ support groups. Thanks for your views.

      http://www.pradnyanblog.wordpress.com

      Sent from my iPhone

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      1. Ma’am, at the outset it does look we have enough laws to deal with this. In-fact, a sensitive police officer can handle this well, with the existing laws. But, know how many such sensitive and proactive officers are in the service?

        So my point is that, we must evolve a legal mechanism to take care of domestic violence against women in a systematic manner. The current legal provisions are inadequate as they leave a lot to the discretion. The punitive measures? Are you talking about the conviction by the court after long years, or the informal ‘treatment’ by the police in the station?

        We all in the government, including many in the judicial system are aware of the problems in the current system. It’s begging for reform. So, we can’t leave things to the society, more so when the society in on the learning curve and the HDI are closer to sub-saharan countries. So, the burden of the change can be shared by the society, but can not be shouldered by the society, IMHO.

        This is a area, where a proactive policy and implementation from the government is expected. Did the ragging practice reduced considerably due to ‘internal change’ among the students or by a proactive legal and executive system?

        BTW, let me not be misunderstood that i am not for local lobby. It is a good idea and very much required. But, it will neither be effective nor sustainable, unless there are focused laws and implementation in this. Please correct me if i am going wrong somewhere. Thanks again for your kind response ma’am. Your writings are so much refreshing and welcome!:-)

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  2. Gulabi gang is just such a collaboration, and is better than depending on the police. Social problems cannot be solved through criminalization.

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  3. Dear Pradnya ji,
    You have touched upon a very important aspect of internalization of the issue and finding a way forward. I would like to look at the way forward in the following manner:
    1. An awareness should be created at school and college level about what constitutes the ‘Crime Against a Woman’. Both, boys and girls should be ‘taught’ about raising voice against such a crime and adhere to ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy towards it.
    2. Police personnel at various levels should be sensitized and trained to investigate the cases impartially in order to ascertain that there is really a crime against a woman and she is not merely ‘victimising’ someone for some reason.
    3. Standard operating procedures should be established, reviewed from time to time by the top brass police officers and revised as and when necessary to accommodate the learning from the past experiences.
    4. Once Stop judicial system may be developed at taluka levels where the police and the victims can approach for early redressal of the cases.
    5. Fast track courts should be established to address all such issues whenever the appeals to higher courts are made in such cases.
    I know its a long way and we (the common people) have no control on that but we surely look at IPS Officers like you to change the systems by raising the issues at appropriate forum.

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  4. Madam,
    Good analysis and suggestions to eradicate domestic violence against women.
    Education and awareness of laws and high degree of moral values would be effective. No law without effective implementation would be solution to any problem.
    Even police personnel need to be trained well to handle people coming to police station to complain against domestic violence. In fact, in few instances, women coming to stations to complain would be treated by police personnel in a way very bad than domestic violence which will make women feel that domestic violence is tolerable than police torture and treatment meted by women complainants.
    Im sorry to say this. With due respect to police department, i would like to request police personnel to handle complainants decently

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  5. Thanks all for putting out these responses. Let me respond to one or two issues raised. One, on better legalising the framework from the govt side. From my side of the story, I have a greater concern for the lack of passion in enforcement of the law. There is the ‘chalta hai’ attitude from all agencies of govt dealing with women’s issues, and that cannot be changed with more laws.
    So how to make enforcement more visible along with making social changes in the society’s attitude towards women? This solution has to come from pressure groups of the stakeholders I.e the local women. It will work on the deviant behavior of households as well as the lackadaisical attitude of the enforcers of the law.
    Another issue of training of police. That will need to be simultaneously revisited by the police trainers so that there is building of capacity in police to take legal action. Again, this issue of domestic violence is not to be looked at as solely a police problem. It needs a co ordinated approach for emotional and economic security of the victim.

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