Kerala’s policewomen are being held down by gender discrimination in the police force.
There are no women of sub-inspector rank or above in the State besides those in Vanitha police stations, women’s cell, or IPS officers.
Female civil police officers are almost never given charge of criminal cases. Vanitha police stations are expected to handle cases in which both the victim and the perpetrator are women. Even such cases, however, are handed over to male officers if grievous hurt has occurred.
Special women’s cells were set up in the police force to look into women’s grievances. But this purpose coupled with gender discrimination has restricted their role in the police force.
“We are recruited after PSC examinations and we undergo the same training as the men do. But our role is considered secondary to theirs,” said a policewoman in Kochi. Women in general police stations are mostly assigned desk work. Under the Janamaithri police scheme, women police officers are required to go to public places for beat patrolling so people can approach them with their grievances.
However, they are only asked to assist their male colleagues when it comes to crime investigations.
A male police official said most women preferred desk duty as it meant they had fixed duty times.
The response from a policewoman was that some women did prefer desk duty as it meant they had more time for their families. “But you cannot have fixed duty time in this job. We start at a fixed time but we may have to work for many hours together. It’s the same for men and women and we do extra duty all the time too,” she said.
Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said there were not enough policewomen to assign crime cases to them. “As per the Police Act at least 10 per cent of the force has to be women. We need 5,400 women for the force, but have less than 3,000 now,” he said.
Policewomen said they faced discrimination from their male colleagues and superiors too.
“Our work is never recognised by men. A policeman who just seizes pirated CDs gets a good service entry. One of our woman colleagues who investigated a crime case up till the end was overlooked for the appreciation.”
The good service entry marked for a police officer is one of the criteria for the Chief Minister’s police medals. Since 1999, only 14 women from the State have secured the award.