How Jaipur Is Reacting To Its All-Women Police Squad

The Jaipur all-women squad unit is just the second in Rajasthan, with the first established in Udaipur last October. (Photo Credit: AFP)
Jaipur: All-women police units are shaking up the male-dominated force in Jaipur, hitting the streets to combat sex crimes and a pervasive culture of silence around rape.

One such squad in Jaipur has been patrolling bus stops, colleges and parks where women are vulnerable to sexual harassment.

(Photo Credit: AFP)

Women can face a barrage on streets, enduring everything from lewd jokes and strangers following them — often dismissed as innocent “Eve teasing” — to physical attacks and rape.

“The message we want to send out is that we have zero tolerance towards crimes against women,” said Kamal Shekhawat, who heads the specialist Jaipur unit established in late May.

(Photo Credit: AFP)

Nearly 40,000 rapes are reported every year in India. However, the real figure is thought to be much higher, with victims wary of how their complaints will be dealt with.

Indian police force is overwhelmingly male — women make up just 7 per cent of officers — and activists complain that victims are often judged by their appearance, asked probing questions, or even blamed for provoking the crime. 

(Photo Credit: AFP)

The shame attached to rape in deeply patriarchal society, and the fear of reprisal means many sex crimes are not reported and offenders go unpunished.

Ms Shekhawat hopes the visible presence of female officers on the beat will encourage more women in Jaipur to report their abusers knowing they will find a sympathetic ear. 

(Photo Credit: AFP)

“Women police are more empathetic and victims also feel more confident and are able to communicate openly before them,” she said.

At a park in Jaipur, constable Saroj Chodhuary dismounted from her scooter and approached a group of sari-clad women to introduce herself.

“You can just make a call or even message on WhatsApp and we will be right there,” she said, clad in khaki uniform and white helmet as she passed around her details.

“Your identity will not be revealed, so you can feel free to register your complaint. If someone makes cat calls or troubles you in any way, do let us know. Don’t take law in your own hands.” 

(Photo Credit: AFP)

The women appear impressed by her authority – Ms Chodhuary and her colleagues are trained in martial arts and spent months learning the law — and relieved to know help was just a phone call away.

Radha Jhabua, a 24-year-old mother, said she wanted to complain about a neighbour stalking her but her husband feared it would bring the family a bad name.

“He told me to keep quiet and wait for the man to change his ways. I am glad we can now just send a Whatsapp message to these sisters and they will take care of the rest,” she told AFP. 

(Photo Credit: AFP)

Seema Sahu, a 38-year-old mother of two, said she usually avoided going out at night with her daughters.

“I am so glad now these police women will be on the roads. Their very presence gives us confidence,” she said. 

(Photo Credit: AFP)

Laws to punish sex offenders were strengthened in the aftermath, but attacks are still widespread. In New Delhi alone there were 2,199 rape cases in 2015 — an average of six a day.

India’s police has been ordered to recruit more female officers so women make up a third of the force.

But so far, their numbers remain low. 

(Photo Credit: AFP)

The Jaipur unit is just the second in Rajasthan, with the first established in Udaipur last October.

Police in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh have come under fire for their controversial approach to combat sex-related crimes.

There officers, including women, patrolling in so-called “anti-Romeo squads” have been accused of harassing unmarried and interfaith couples in an effort to enforce a moral code reflecting Hindu values. 

(Photo Credit: AFP)

Ms Shekhawat said no such methods would be adopted under her watch.

“We have seen a very good impact and positive results wherever our teams are on patrol,” she said.

“It is having a preventive effect. It is restoring the faith of the public in the police which is a must for maintaining law and order.”

(Photo Credit: AFP)

Men are taking note, too.

“It’s a very good move. When a man gets rounded up by these women, others will automatically feel the heat. They will have to mend their ways,” said Jaipur resident Ram Lal Gujar.

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