LAHORE – Discrimination against women police runs high in the department, says a study conducted by a non-governmental organization. “The bias has reached a disturbing level of acceptability both on the part of women constables and their male counterparts,” the coordinator of Simorgh Women Resource and Publication Centre, Ms. Neelam Husain, says.
“Discrimination and violence are institutionalized in our culture, which sees violence as a solution rather than something to be discouraged,” commented Ms. Husain. For the past five years now, the organization had undertaken an intensive empirical research to gauge the level of discrimination and violence against women in Lahore. One of the offshoots of that project was to communicate and underline problems faced by women in the police force.
The latter project got rigorously underway when the British Council approached the NGO last year in June and asked it to concentrate on training policewomen. The first phase ended this year in June 2004, which included workshops for the Lahore policewomen working at various police stations.
The participatory method used by the NGO helped policewomen to be less reluctant about the problems faced by them in the course of their work. “Initially we thought of including policemen as well.
But our past experience indicated that their female colleagues did not participate as vocally as we would have liked. Most of the time they kept quiet in the presence of their superiors and male constables for fear of being punished later for extreme openness,” explains Ms. Husain.
This year-long project took 60 women from Lahore and divided them into two groups. One group comprised four sub-inspectors, five assistant sub-inspectors, one deputy sub-inspector, four head constables and 16 constables. The other group had one assistant sub-inspector and 26 constables.
“We found out the problems faced by these women and the miserable conditions they work in. We discussed the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) with them and asked to be provided with the structure of the police force,” says Ms. Husain.
There are nearly 300 policewomen in Lahore. And, from the female Deputy Superintendent Police down to the constable, the NGO discovered that women were bypassed when it came to promotion or decision-making.
Their badges were symbolic as were their batons and the real power was enjoyed by the men. “During the workshop we were told by one of them that they got pushed aside by men when a mobile canteen approached to deliver them food. Even the food which women are given has smaller portions as compared to the policemen,” she says.
Not only are the police poorly paid (a constable’s monthly salary for both men and women is a miserly Rs5000), they are short of vehicle facility. In the case of policewomen this handicap disables them to help victims who come to them for recourse.
“We were told that victims of rape and domestic violence could not be given instant help because most of the time the police were without transport,” says Ms. Husain.
But another serious problem is the lack of understanding and an overall derogatory attitude of policemen towards their female colleagues who are supporting families.
“Women police have to lock up their children or ask neighbours to look after them when on duty which is usually very long. We’ve recommended that the police department should set up crÃ¨che for the facility of working mothers.
Among the list of our recommendations is to give promotions based on merit. The present culture of gender-bias prevents women from securing high posts, with the result that a majority of them retire as constables,” commented Ms. Husain.