The harassment of women is widespread in India, as in so many places in the world. But all-female police units are taking to the streets in northwest India to fight the problem.
The city of Jaipur has recently launched the country’s latest all-female police force. This follows a similar initiative in the neighbouring city of Udaipur.
Those on the force are put through months of legal and martial arts training before being deployed to patrol harassment hotspots, such as bus stops and parks.
It is hoped that the presence of all-women police units will not only deter would-be rapists, but that it will also help prevent sexual harassment.
Around 80% of Indian women have been harassed by men in public. This is a practice known as ‘Eve teasing’ and it includes catcalling, lewd comments and being followed by strangers.
“The message we want to send out is that we have zero tolerance towards crimes against women,” said Kamal Shekhawat, who heads up the new Jaipur unit.
Early results are promising
The all-women Jaipur police force was set up in May and it has already been credited with reducing levels of harassment.
Previously, victims were afraid to report sex crimes to a largely male police force. This was due to fears that they wouldn’t be believed, or that they would be blamed for the attack.
The presence of female-only units has boosted confidence in the police.
Women who become the target of harassment or a sex crime can now report it via a phone call or the messaging service, WhatsApp.
Taking action against sex crimes committed in public is one thing, preventing similar attacks occurring in a domestic setting is quite another.
While advances have been made in tackling domestic abuse around the world, it remains an underreported problem within many societies, including in India where it is often accepted under the guise of cultural practices or religious beliefs.
Marriage is seen as a private affair for many Indian families. Before the 2005 introduction of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act there was little respite for victims of domestic abuse. Yet, even to this day, marital rape is not covered by the Act.
India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development and several national and international development organizations have invested in schemes to enhance the social and economic empowerment of women.
Perhaps the officers who work in all-female police units will help to empower other women.