Why do Indian women cop out?

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A new beginning ‘Get Ready to Report’ campaign seeks to empower women. Photo: Vijay Grover
A new beginning ‘Get Ready to Report’ campaign seeks to empower women. Photo: Vijay Grover

Do women in India confidently walk into a police station? The answer is no. However, if she happens to be a policewoman then she might. The fear of the police is higher among women and that is the reason why they dread the thought of even entering a police station to file a complaint. This is a claim which is further substantiated by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics. According to the NCRB, only one percent of women report to the police if they are sexually attacked. It is appalling to find that women are averse to approaching the police in spite of setting up special women’s police stations in several states.

So, to restore women’s faith in the police force, the Bengaluru police along with Amnesty International India launched a new initiative called ‘Bengaluru, Get Ready to Report’. The project is aimed at encouraging women to report any misdeeds against them to the police without fear.

When the Ashoka Nagar Police Station and nine others in Bengaluru opened their doors to girls to see how they operate, many took up the opportunity to see something which would otherwise send a chill down their spine.

Deepa, a student who saw a police station for the first time, says, “I was apprehensive initially but since we were in a group, I felt bold enough to enter. I saw the fir desk and the cells. I also got a firsthand account of how a police station functions.”

But the big question remains: Why do women fear to approach the police even when in distress?

Stating lack of interaction as the reason behind the apprehension about the police, Gopika Bashi, Amnesty International India’s women’s rights campaigner, says, “For most women, faith in the police department is zero as from a very young age they hear stories of harassment. This is an area where the police have to change themselves.”

However, Karnataka cops in general and Bengaluru police in particular do not have a very negative image among the people. In Bengaluru, every senior officer is active on social media platforms and is accessible through Twitter and Facebook.

They are also making serious efforts to change the public perception towards the police by partnering with Amnesty International India.

The biggest problem with the city is that even the smallest incident gets highlighted.

Bengaluru Police Commissioner MN Reddi tells Tehelka, “Only when the interaction between the public and the police increases will the law and order situation improve. I want to make the police more approachable and friendly, especially towards women.”

Being a cosmopolitan city, the constabulary is being trained to communicate in other frequently spoken languages such as English and Hindi. They are also becoming more tech savvy with local police stations creating WhatsApp groups for citizens in their respective localities to get frequent updates.

The Twitter handle of the Bengaluru police commissioner @CPBlr has over a million followers.

But while the campaign has kicked off in Bengaluru in a big way, the concern is whether it can be implemented in other states or not. Compared to Karnataka, many other states in the country are not very safe for women and the policemen are not as pragmatic as the ones in the state.

Admitting the problems involved in implementing the campaign in other states, Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, says, “If one observes what happens in Delhi or in other states of north India, a lot has to be done for the police to build trust.”

But the biggest question that remains is why women tend to avoid policemen like the plague?

Attributing lack of sensitivity among junior level officers and constables towards women as the reason, a women’s rights activist says, “A corrupt system and an unholy nexus between the lower level policemen and the miscreants portray the entire force in a bad light. The efforts that go into establishing the evidence in several cases require a lot of effort and the same proves beyond the means of the under-trained and over-burdened police force.”

While ‘Bengaluru, Get Ready to Report’ campaign may be a small step in the right direction, it is hoped that this initiative brings about a change in the perception of women towards the police force.

vijay.grover@tehelka.com

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