Gender Inequality in the Indian Police Force

In the last few years, India has witnessed a drastic and positive change in the role of women in the society. The industrial revolution along with liberalization and globalization has altered the status of women from a traditional homemaker to that of a professional. Indian women are now actively participating in all economic activities and simultaneously managing their family and work life. Some of the greatest examples are Mrs. Indira Gandhi (first female Prime Minister of the country), Mrs. Pratibha Patil (first female President of the country), Ms. Chanda Kochchar (first female MD and CEO of the country’s largest private sector bank, ICICI), Ms. Kanchan C. Bhattacharya (first female Director General of Police), Ms. Kiran Bedi (first female IPS officer), Ms. Sonali Banerjee (first female merchant navy officer) and many more. However, on the other hand gender discrimination against women still exists particularly in the police force.

Policing is considered as one of the most male dominated professions in the world. Women are generally regarded as the soft gender, the weaker sex, the one needing protection. Policing is a demanding job, which involves long and uncertain hours of duty. It is believed that the characteristics of women are not suited to fit the requirements of such a profession. The condition of policewoman in India is exactly the same, only the situation is much worse as compared to the other countries. Even though all the postings and ranks in the police are common to both men and women, women are still under-represented and are not assigned to field missions to the same extent as men.

They are shielded and are hardly assigned strenuous police work. Most of them are posted as PSO’s to VIP wives and children and are rarely given important roles depriving them of earning recognition and sharing power.Only when there is a women-centric crime or where the criminal is a woman, they are sent out. Going by this logic, maximum number of women police personnel should be seen in Delhi given the fact that the city has earned the title of the “rape capital” of the country. Rape by a police official in the form of custodial rape or otherwise seems to be an established precedent here.

In a response to an RTI query, it was revealed that approximately 100 policeman were found to be involved in rape in the past 10 years[1]. To make matters worse, it was recently reported that a sub-inspector of an area (Saket) was involved in rape on the pretext of marriage[2]. Needless to say, that the people especially women of Delhi have lost faith in the police. Therefore it has become aberrant and crucial to employ more women in the police. According to 2013 statistics, policewomen constitute only 7.13% (5,356) of 75,169 police personnel in Delhi[3]. A number of states in India (for instance Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Punjab) have established all-women police stations (AWPS) which are managed and run exclusively by women police personnel[4].

This is because women generally feel more comfortable about approaching police stations manned by women, rather than regular police stations, especially for women-related problems—like dowry harassment, sexual harassment, assault, bigamy, eve-teasing, domestic violence etc. Unfortunately Delhi hasn’t made any progress here. Time and again various promises have been made by the government and police authorities ensuring that more women personnel will be inducted in the force, but the numbers remain woefully low.

Rule of law is the cornerstone of any democracy. Rule of law essentially means equality before law, and all individuals being subjected to the same laws in the same measure. Our constitution grants equality to women and also empowers the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women to balance the cumulative socio-economic, educational and political disadvantages faced by them. The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Preamble, Fundamental Rights[5], Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles[6]. Although, the Indian government has enacted various women-specific legislations to uphold the constitutional mandate but protection against gender-based discrimination in recruitment and promotions is expressly provided by the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976[7].

For the purpose of increasing employment opportunities of women, a provision in this act exclusively calls for setting up of an advisory committee.[8]Also, the National Police Commission in its 5th report recommended the urgent need of recruiting more women and assigning equal work to both men and women. India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments expressing the same view like the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies 1985[9], Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action 1995[10]. The most important being the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination againstWomen[11]. However, one can easily notice the wide gap prevalent between the goals enunciated in the Constitution, legislation, policies and plans on the one hand and the stark reality of the status of policewoman in India on the other.

The role of the police is critical in any society. In our society a policeman is seen as a symbol of state power, coercion and retribution and not as a friend or protector of the state. Maintaining public orderand peace with such an image can be a daunting task. Under these circumstances, women can prove to be an asset to the force. Research and history have disproved the notion that women are not suited for policing. Women are known to employ a different style of conflict resolution i.e. communication before physical confrontation. While women are typically seen as compassionate, emotional and nonviolent, the very same traits can enhance the quality and efficiency of a department as they are quick to response to crimes against women and children. Men and women have different personality traits and behaviour patterns. If these differences are managed with proper understanding, they can be helpful in creating an excellent work environment within the police organization.

The sensitizing and restructuring of the Indian police station will require a multi-faceted approach. However, the first step in this direction should be to give more representation to women in the force. India being a democratic country, the principle of democratic policing should innately be applied here. While the western countries are busy coping with the dynamics of feminism and elitism among women, India is sadly still struggling with physical presence of womenin a police station. Ours is a tradition bound society and genderbased stereotypes are not going to vanish in a day. In India, Policing is one profession which is neither encouraged by parents nor taken up by interest, especially in the case of women. However, on one level it is up to the policewomen of the nation to adopt an activist approach and address the gross injustice happening, on another level government should formulate and strictly implement policies that guarantee equality between male and female workforce. Women police personnel only demand, that they be treated at par so that they get a fair opportunity to prove their worth. The same selection criteria, training standards, incentives and work schedules should be applicable to them as those applicable to their male counterparts.It is about time we bring a change in the society and show the much deserved respect to an Indian policewoman.

(Author: Ananta Sharma)

[1]Network for Improved Policing in South Asia(NIPSA), “100 Delhi Police cops accused in rape and molestation cases in last 10 years”, (13 February 2014) at:, India Today, “100 Delhi Police cops accused in rape and molestation cases in last 10 years”, (8 February, 2014) at:

[2]The Times of India, “Delhi Police official booked for rape”, (9 February, 2014) at:

[3]Hindustan Times, “Women constitute only 5.33% of police forces in India”, (31 March, 2013) at:

[4] The Hindu, “Only 442 women police stations across India: Police research data”, (25 December,2012) at:

[5] The Constitution of India, Part III (Fundamental Rights) , Article 14 , 15 and 16.

[6]The Constitution Of India, Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy), Article 39(A) and Article 41.

[7] Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Section 5 at:

[8] Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Section 6 at:

[9] Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies 1985 at:

[10] Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 1995 at:

[11]CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women), Article 11 at: