India's all-women police stations are keeping women safer than before. Here's how

An inmate at Tihar Jail, the largest complex of prisons in South Asia, makes decorations for an event to mark International Women's Day in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC18C3FFBB90

Women also tend to exhibit more pro-social traits than men. Image: REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Ananya Bhattacharya
Contributor, Quartz
Ananya Bhattacharya
Contributor, Quartz
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Female police officers in India are changing the way violence against women is reported.

Opening all-woman police stations (WPS) increased crime reportage by a significant 22% in the world’s most dangerous country for women, according to a June 2018 study. This is because women are more comfortable approaching these stations.

In areas with a WPS, there was a 21.4% rise in the rates of violence committed against women, a city-level analysis revealed. At the state-level, too, the results were consistent, posting a 22.5% jump.

“This, in turn, led to a rise in arrests of crimes whose reports increased,” researchers Sofia Amaral and Sonia Bhalotra of University of Essex in the UK, and Nishith Prakash from University of Connecticut, US, wrote in their paper.

Earlier research has shown that increased participation of women in the workforce led to reduced corruption. Women also tend to exhibit more pro-social traits than men. Incorporating women is essential considering, in India, one woman complains of police apathy every two hours, where they are either discouraged, turned away or harassed further when trying to lodge a complaint.

“In WPS, officers are less likely to exhibit skewed gender norms about the roles of women or tolerance of violence committed against them, the recording and subsequent filling of FIR’s increased,” Amaral and her co-authors wrote.

For less severe crimes

Most of the increase in crime reportage at the city-level was observed under the categories of female kidnappings and domestic violence—up 22.2% and 21.7%, respectively.

This is no different at the state level either, where the reportage of female abductions saw a 10.85% uptick following the setting up of WPSs. The researchers, though, didn’t find a statistically significant change in the rate of rapes, gender-specific mortality, or self-reported intimate-partner violence.

“…the reform could have had a larger impact in crimes with lower cost of reporting in comparison to others whose emotional and physical costs are potentially higher as is the case of rapes,” the study stated. “Reporting incentives are likely to matter more among crimes with a medium range of severity and not all forms of crime against women.”

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More women but less power

The first WPS was inaugurated in the coastal city of Kozhikode in the southern Indian state of Kerala in 1973 by then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi. By 2013, the overall number of WPS in India had increased to 479.

Of all the WPSs in the country in 2013, Tamil Nadu hosted 196, according to government data. The state also posted the highest average share of women in the police (5.87%) in the country between 1988 and 2013, the data revealed.

Even if Tamil Nadu is not considered, the study’s results were consistent, proving that the mere presence of WPSs made a difference, irrespective of the density of the special stations in the region.

Besides establishing more WPS, more women, too, are being employed in the police force. Between 2015 and 2016, the population of women among India’s police personnel jumped up 15% from just under 123,000 to over 140,000.

Yet, women make up under 8% of the force even now, with merely a handful of them making it to the top ranks.

Yet, women make up under 8% of the force even now, with merely a handful of them making it to the top ranks.

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