PAKISTAN: The police personnel should be sensitised to gender based violence and other gender issues

An article from Daily Times forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Dr Rakhshinda Perveen

Police is the first respondent to Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG). Their attitude and response can have a dramatic impact on developments, including the prevention of future violent acts and the protection of victims. The basis of Gender Responsive Policing (GRP) is an organisational strategy, which employs mechanisms to enhance the feeling of safety among women by providing them with better access to justice and security. There is an international consensus that the GRP is necessary in police and other security organisations. This is supported at the global level by the UN and International Association of Chiefs of Police.

In 2009, the United Nations launched an effort to increase its number of female police officers deployed with the United Nations. The goal was reaffirmed through the Security Council Resolution 2242 (2015), which mandates the United Nations to double its female police representation by 2020.Eight Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security highlight, the differential impact of conflict on women, men, boys and girls and the necessity to mainstream gender perspectives into peacekeeping. Furthermore, Security Council resolution 2185 (2014) on policing in peacekeeping emphasised the promotion of gender equality as part of a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention and long-term peace

The Police personnel should be sensitised to Gender Based Violence and other gender issues. It should not be forgotten that being a woman is not enough to understand the situation of women and female victims. It is also necessary to raise policewomen’s consciousness on matters of violence against women and girls and GBV. Ironically, not all women are feminists and not all men are patriarchs. Therefore, mere recruitment — while being important does not, automatically empower women in police and ensure gender mainstreaming.

Throughout the world, statistics from police departments show that women are severely under-represented in senior positions. In Pakistan, 6363, is the total number of women in the police from 15 organisations and 7 regions that makes up only 1.6 percent approximately of the total force. Gilgit-Baltistan with 183 police women has the highest percentage among the seven regions. The percentages of Punjab, KP, Balochistan, Sindh, and AJK & ICT are 1.8, 1, 0.5, 1.4, 1.5 and 2.8 respectively. The FIA with 205 women constitutes the highest percentage i.e. 11.4 among the 15 organisations. While acknowledging that the police sector is under resourced and overworked and the terror torn context of Pakistan makes policing a tremendously testing task here; the importance of community-centred and genderised policing should not be disregarded.

The structural inadequacy of police when combined with gender specific ineptness contributes to promoting support for vigilante. Luckily, the crimes of VAWG are no longer totally muted due to private media’s ascendancy and a little impact of the decade long collective efforts of various stakeholders (activists, progressive elements in different governments, funding of donors/technical aid agencies and rights based non-profit organisations). However, in the absence of any authentic data on VAGW/GBW and official policy of using data for decision making, gender equality and empowerment are nothing but a distant dream for the majority of women in Pakistan including women in the police sector.

The UN Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security highlight the different impacts of conflict on women, men, boys and girls and the necessity to mainstream gender perspectives into peacekeeping

Pakistan with the Gender Inequality Index Rank of 143 out of 144 countries has been ranked the second-worst country in the world for gender inequality for the second consecutive year and is way behind Bangladesh and India which rank 72nd and 87th respectively. The police sector is most likely heading towards positive change due to some donor funded initiatives to transform from an ‘abusive’ force into a ‘service’ that is community oriented and gender responsive.

Police organisations in Pakistan are often the sites of hegemonic masculinity. The concept of hegemonic masculinity, formulated two decades ago, has been defined by the Sociologist Connel, as the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of legitimacy in patriarchy, which guarantees the dominant position of men and the subordinate position of women. The political conjuncture and patriarchal consensus must not be overlooked in this scenario. The hegemonic masculinity in police culture, very often diverts if not excludes, the discourse on violence against women and influences the way policewomen deal with women and girls who are survivors of violence. Unfortunately, gender mainstreaming and equality are the least developed attributes of leadership and management and neither are they well defined aspects of the policy formulations in the police service of Pakistan.

The critical questions are; how to develop ownership from those powerful men to remove the kinks in engendered policing, how to use their cuff and clout for playing a strategic role and how to initiate a serious and sincere dialogue on potentially sensitive issues within the security sector hierarchy.

The number of women in police correlated to the success of GBV reports. If the police does not have enough female participation, female victims of GBV can be endangered.

The writer is a gender expert, researcher, author & architect of the pioneering study on qualitative analysis of reported cases of violence against women in Pakistan

The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect that of the AHRC.