Mumbai, 26 December 2018: Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation, hosted the first in a series of multi-stakeholder consultations - ‘Enabling Women’s Access to Justice: Towards Effective and Gender Responsive Policing in India’. Over 25 prominent non-profit leaders, academics and experts in social service, policing and gender studies voiced the need for close engagement with police in order to assist the force to improve its response to women.
Highlighting a key problem, Sriparna Ganguly, Associate Director, Dasra, pointed out “Women get left out of the justice system. Gender bias, high costs, and corruption are keeping women out of the formal system. ‘Enabling Women’s Access to Justice: Towards Effective and Gender Responsive Policing in India’ consultation was hosted to encourage multi-stakeholder engagement for arriving at a common agenda on pathways to make the police system work for women.”
Participants included leaders of non-profit organizations like Association For Advocacy and Legal Initiatives: AALI, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Majlis Legal Centre and more. Individual participants included Jacob Punnoose, Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and ex-DGP and State Police Chief (Director General of Police) of Kerala, Dr. M. C. Borwankar, an IPS officer, and representatives from field action projects like RCI-VAW: Resource Centre for Interventions on Violence against Women located at Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) amongst others.
Pointing to women’s lack of access to justice, Maja Daruwala, Senior Advisor to CHRI said, “Too much injustice in society and too much individual tragedy is perpetuated because of police non-performance and wrong-doing. This cannot go on. The sub-culture within the police has to change and change now. This is the duty of the police leadership. Civil society stands ready to assist.”
Dr. Vipul Mudgal, Director of Common Cause, an organization that works on police reforms, said, “There is a need for rigorous and contemporary research on gender-sensitive policing.” He further added, “Gender diversity drives performance and makes police stations into better workplaces. Women police officers are known for better, smarter decision making, and their presence makes community policing real and collaborative”.
Even when taking note of the constraints that police work under, participants repeatedly pointed to all too common experiences of discriminatory treatment, corruption, intimidation, disrespect and refusal to file FIRs when women turn to the police for help. This institutional bias is validated by numerous studies including the recent Status of Policing in India Report (SPIR) 2018: only 30% of their respondents said they would report gender-based discrimination to police. Daksh’s perception survey in 2017 - Approaches to Justice - shows that only 7% women respondents felt they would file a complaint with the police. Of those who even tried just 36% could while 47% of men were successful.
Over the next six months, Dasra’s Democracy and Governance Collaborative will deepen its focus on addressing barriers to women’s access to justice through a series of similar consultations.
In the last three years, the Collaborative has focused on the following initiatives to aid extension of justice to marginalized communities:
At the consultation, participants explored not only the challenges faced by women demanding justice but also some solutions that are required to make the police work for the women. Following are the key highlights from the consultation:
What stops women from approaching the police and police station?
In this session, women complainants and participants from the civil society organizations put forward how social, economic and political factors affect access to the police and police station. The key areas of the discussion were refusal and delay in filing the First Information Report (FIR), fear of judgement by the police force, corruption at various levels, and lack of awareness of laws and sensitivity of the police force. A key standout discussion area was the lack of accountability of the police force that heavily affects the long winding process to file an FIR and negative perception around it.
Steps for Gender Responsive Policing in India
Senior officers from the Indian Police Service (IPS) and members of the civil society organizations presented their ideas and suggested innovative solutions for creating gender-responsive law enforcement. The panelists recognized below areas as possible solutions and areas of focus:
Collaborative action to enable access to justice
The multi-stakeholder consultation also conducted an active dialogue about space for collaborative action to implement the best practices across India to ensure access to police and police stations for women. First-hand experiences shared by activists, senior police officers and researchers enriched the understanding of challenges faced by women in seeking justice and provided a direction to initiate collaborative action. Below four areas were recognized as priorities:
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Dasra, meaning ‘enlightened giving’ in Sanskrit, is a pioneering strategic philanthropic organization that aims to transform India where a billion thrive with dignity and equity. Since its inception in 1999, Dasra has accelerated social change by driving collaborative action through powerful partnerships among a trust-based network of stakeholders (corporates, foundations, families, non-profits, social businesses, government, and media). Over the years, Dasra has deepened social impact in focused fields that include adolescents, urban sanitation and governance and has built social capital by leading a strategic philanthropy movement in the country. For more information, visit www.dasra.org