Here's a wishlist for the police on ensuring women's safety — and it doesn't involve painting anything pink

By Chandni Shah

In an unpredictable world, one thing is guaranteed — right now, some police department somewhere in India is thinking of a genius move to help women. Painting their cars pink. Creating Pink Patrols or SHE squads or other insufferably named groups of cops has been the go-to move of police forces all over the country.

Recently in Karnataka, the Chitradurga police launched the Onake Obbava Force. The group consists of women who have been trained in self-defence. Their primary job? Teaching self-defence to little girls and patrolling crowded areas like the Majestic Bus Stop for potential molesters. Onake Obbava is an 18th century woman who is said to have single-handedly fought off Hyder Ali’s forces with a pestle. While the origin of the name is superb, we were left to wonder if every town really needs another special, so special, squad to protect women.

Here are 10 things that the police should be doing instead to make the world better for women.

-Listen to women when we tell you that we have faced sexual assault. Police, all over the country have a sterling record in not believing women when they say that they are being molested. Please believe us when we say we are being molested. We don’t have a vendetta against men. We are not imagining things. We don’t deserve to have it happen to us because of what we were wearing, eating or drinking. We don’t even have that new disease you accuse of – doing it for publicity.

-File the damn complaint. Right now, not very far away from you a woman is at a police station trying to get an FIR filed and facing the familiar practice of police refusing. Now, we know you dislike filing FIRs in all crimes (except in the case of well-connected right-wing folks feeling offended by the air) because somehow not filing FIRs means no crime in your jurisdiction. Refusing to file a FIR is against the law. Filing the FIR is also, we hate to remind you, your job. Let women lodge their complaints with ease.

Heres a wishlist for the police on ensuring womens safety — and it doesnt involve painting anything pink

Representational image. Reuters

-Maintain confidentiality of sexual assault survivors. There have been cases, such as this, when a sexual assault survivor wrote a complaint letter to file an FIR against sexual assault and all relevant details, including the survivor’s phone number, seem to have been shared with the perpetrator, his family and with the media. What gives? These details are supposed to remain private. Nobody wants to see their complaint letter in the news like that. It’s terrifying. There are laws to protect the privacy of the victim for a reason. Maybe you, being upholders of the law, should not break these laws. Just a thought.

-Stop enabling moral policing. Because they are not moral or the police. They are criminals. If you’ve seen the videos of the Anti-Romeo squads moral policing couples, you know that it’s been an issue. Stop moral policing consenting couples, even if they are of different castes or (gasp!) different religions. This 15 August, tell yourself that unity in diversity happens when couples hold hands. Don’t be like the cops who help goons in Mangaluru, who beat up couples from different communities for talking to each other, or the cops who stood by as girls were beaten up for celebrating Valentine’s Day. Or in Kolkata's Dum Dum Metro station, where two people hugging were beaten up by the moral police.

-Remember that women are very rarely assaulted by strangers. Research shows that in India, only in 9 percent of cases were the accused strangers. In the remaining 91 percent, the accused were persons known to the victim. This factor needs to change the way the police approach the filing of complaints, the protection of survivors and investigation of cases.

-Remember that rape is about power, not sex. Familiar places, like schools or work are where most of the violence occurs. Again, women are more likely to be assaulted in familiar places by familiar people. The recent case in Muzaffarpur, where 29 girls were raped, is proof of this. This was done in a shelter which was supposedly a safe place. Patrolling in pink cars by female police personnel would not have solved the issue. This would not have fixed the fact that the girls were drugged and raped in the shelter, by people they were familiar with. Make it easier to report such cases. That would be helpful.

-Be kinder to victims and their loved ones. If you’ve ever gone to a police station to report a case, you know that the experience is a trauma in itself. Maybe, instead of spending crores on painting cars pink, have a course where the police are taught to be sensitive to victims. This would make the victim feel more at ease after the trauma she has gone through.

-If you can’t be kind, at least stop the victim shaming. No, it’s not because of her shorts that she got molested. It’s also not because she was having a meal with the person. Whether she’s in a sari, a burqa or shorts, an assault is an assault. You would think that having female cops would stop the victim shaming, but it’s not true. Even female cops victim-shame and we’re getting tired of listening to the excuses that they give.

-Please fix your damn helplines. Having apps that let you report crimes of sexual harassment and abuse isn't a great idea, because they don’t work. A helpline number is useless if there is no one picking up the damn phone, as in the much publicised helpline in Uttar Pradesh. Keep in mind the fact that not everyone has an expensive phone to install apps into, and that in India, phone signals are sometimes hard to come by. And by the way, apparently it’s kind of horrible to be a woman working at the Bengaluru police helplines too. Maybe you could look into that.

-Don’t make up data to justify the expense of the pink paint. Don’t tell people crime rates dropping because of the pink patrol. It doesn’t seem to make sense. A couple years ago in Hyderabad, the SHE Teams held a press conference to tell the media about how crime rates were dropping because of SHE Teams. Colour us skeptical. The Bengaluru City Police recently tweeted that the sheer sight of the Obbava Pade would be enough to frighten anti-social elements. The mere sight of a female police cop, even if she’s carrying a lathi, won’t lead to safety for women and stop molesters. A little research never goes wrong, and maybe you should look into why the data correlation isn’t making much sense to us.

-Change the way you treat female police personnel. Why would we trust an institution that systematically oppresses women? There are a lot of cases where policewomen are mentally and sexually harassed. This is true for women constables, who are harassed by their peers and by their bosses. There have been cases where female police officers have had to resign from their office to pursue cases against those who were harassing them.

So instead of photo-ops with policewomen in camouflage pants, black t-shirts and caps carrying lathis, or women in pink police cars, look at the way that women are having troubles reporting cases of crime against them. Look at where violence most likely happens to women and find a solution for that instead. This silver bullet in the form of pink cars and CCTV cameras and adoption of cool names isn’t the solution we’re looking for. This pinkification has to stop, because in many cases, they’re just doing nothing apart from throwing crores of tax money into a very pink drain.

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Updated Date: Aug 13, 2018 18:43:31 IST

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