In Pakistan, women police officers are rare. Despite the 10 per cent set quota, women make up less than one per cent of the overall police force in the country; with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan trailing further behind with 0.72 and 0.31 per cent respectively.
Whereas, countries like Bangladesh and Nepal consist of six and eight per cent women in police forces respectively, Pakistani women police officers have the lowest representation in the force in the SAARC region.
Deputy Superintendent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, Ms Aneela Naz’s story is unique. Unlike most men of the region, it was her father who pushed her to be a part of law enforcement. She ended up joining the police force as an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI). One of the few women police officers in KP, her daily duties are quite contrary to societal gender roles. She examines crime scenes, disperses mobs and patrols Peshawar city in a province where women are not normally seen holding positions of power.
Despite the many challenges she faces in her daily duties, she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. Hoping for a higher number of women in police in Pakistan in general and KP in particular, DSP Aneela shares, “I’m of the opinion that KP police should increase the number of women. One way of doing that would be making the entry criteria slightly lenient to make it possible for more women to join the force.”
DSP Aneela is also a Master Trainer on gender sensitivity. She has been extensively trained on gender sensitivity and has then trained members of her department, mostly all men, on the same. Aneela is proud that she has had the opportunity to learn and pass on her learnings to those even senior than her.
While Pakistan struggles to increase women’s representation in the legal profession, the global scenario is not quite bright either. In the United States, women represent roughly a tenth of all law enforcement officers. The situation is slightly better in England and Wales, where almost 28 per cent of police officers are women while as many as 33 per cent of the police officers in Australia are women. In Dubai, women account for fewer than one in 10 of the force’s 15,000 qualified police personnel whereas Thailand has only 8 per cent of women police personnel.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is working hard to increase women’s representation in its police force. On a good day, there are about 4,400 female police officers on duty. This figure makes only one per cent of the 400,000 total officers serving in the country in a population of around 200 million.
United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Supporting Rule of law for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies Amn-o-Insaf (AOI) project empowers communities and improves justice services towards enhanced peace and stability in Pakistan. The AOI is actively working to increase women’s representation in law enforcement through advocacy, appropriate training and creating conducive and enabling environments for women officers to thrive. It supports the most vulnerable individuals (women, refugees, children and religious minorities) to claim their rights.
When a particular field has low representation of women, that field lacks innovation, diversity and higher productivity. But when the field of law enforcement has low representation of women, the entire society suffers. For example, Pakistan does not have enough women police officers in police stations to file First Investigation Reports (FIRs), trained to conduct crime searches, present at security checkpoints and do other tasks part of duties for police personnel. Lack of women in law enforcement often discourages women from reporting violations and visiting police stations because of their male-dominated structure. All of this leads to weaker rule of law in the country, which impacts all sectors of the society. The women of this country deserve better.
While many may think that societal norms and patriarchy are the only reasons behind women’s low representation in police forces, but lack of training and orientation are also major contributors. The absence of appropriate schooling that trains applicants for forces, leads to many women applicants unable to appear or prepare for the induction and promotional exams. Though recruitment is a major problem; retention of women in police forces is a huge challenge. Challenges with work-life balance, underrepresentation, and leadership are some of the reasons many women officers leave the force.
This male-dominated profession does not make it easy for women to thrive and succeed. Lack of gender policies, trainings and mentoring programmes and the isolation in the field are all contributing factors that add to the gender parity in police forces.
To train and uplift the skills of women police officers, UNDP is supporting KP’s police in expansion of Pakistan’s largest police training centres: The Joint Police Training Centre Nowshera (JPTC). JPTC includes the first ever separate women training facilities for police officers, which will be monumental in the training of future women officers and encourage more women to join the police force. The existing capacity of JPTC will be expanded from 600 men and women trainees to 1500 trainees per year. It will further deepen the ongoing efforts for securing peace in the country while also increasing opportunities for women to train and enter law enforcement.
In order to encourage and attract more women to join law enforcement, it is crucial for working spaces to be conducive for women. Understanding this, the organisation is working to create conducive and enabling working spaces for women in police. In the past, two women dormitories with child day-care facilities were established at the Regional Training Centre (RTC), Swat and Police Training College Hangu.
By establishing women hostels with child day-care centres, the programme is hopeful that more women will enter the force in the times to come. In all infrastructure projects like the JPTC, Prosecution Academy Peshawar, Police Training College Quetta and Anti-Narcotics Force, the programme has ensured safety and security for women and space for day-care facilities for their children.
Moreover, the programme has also conducted various trainings for women officers. Besides gender responsive trainings, UNDP has trained more than 700 women police offers on criminal investigation and crime scene management, IT skills, investigation and crime scenes and forensics. All these skills have had a direct impact on improving the women’s work and making career advancement. This makes the field attractive for more women to enter the field of law enforcement.
In addition to that, UNDP has established Gender Responsive Desks (GRDs) at 65 Model Police Stations (MPS) in KP. The programme also understands that establishing desks is only the first step. Thus, the staff is trained on gender responsive policing to change the environment of police stations and encourage women to freely visit to report violations.
Policing plans, made part of the KP Police Act 2017, identify policing issues for each district as well as means for addressing them in consultations with the local community. Local community’s engagement in such matters deepens the citizen-state engagement in law enforcement. A number of women police officers have been trained on the concept of Annual District Policing Plans. This has enabled them to understand the process of developing policing plans through consultative process and track progress. These women police officers were chosen from different parts of the KP.
In Balochistan as well, the programme has supported law enforcement to develop a gender strategy to increase women police officers in Balochistan Police. This strategy will not only incentivise police and levies jobs for women but also identify tools to reach out to the women and decisions makers at grass-root level. The strategy aims to provide both guidance to encourage women and create techniques to make the workplace conducive for women. In the same vein, UNDP together with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is also developing a gender strategy for the Anti-Narcotics Force to the increase number of women that join the force and provide opportunities for their career growth.
The organisation understands that just recruiting women in the police force is not enough. In an effort to ensure their growth in the field and to help them reach senior positions, it conducted a training and mentoring programme for 20 women police personnel who were prepared for B1 and Assistant Sub Inspector promotion exams through the Provincial Public Service Commission. As many as 50 per cent of the applicants have passed the exam and progressed to the next level.
As part of its advocacy efforts, over 2000 gender responsive policing clipboards were developed with Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) on Gender-based Violence (GBV) and converted into Dos and Don’ts. The Dos and Don’ts were printed in Urdu on clipboards that were disseminated to all police stations and units in KP. The clipboards are an instant aide memoir that guides police officers on standard good practices when dealing with GBV and to avoid evidential compromise.
Currently, Pakistan stands amongst the group of countries where gender inequality, systematic disempowerment and segregation of the women is a common issue. In 2018, Pakistan ranked 148 on the Gender Equality Index of 149 countries. Recruiting more women in the police force and ensuring their development and growth will have a direct impact on women’s legal empowerment, gender mainstreaming in the law enforcement agencies and their overall inclusion in the workforce.
One way to successfully enrol more women personnel is by ensuring implementation of the existing quota and as a second step, increasing the quota. Though the KP Police has dedicated spaces for women personnel in training institute, the training policy itself should specifically address the issues of women trainees. Keeping in view the local culture and context, a training programme should be designed which provides an enabling environment for women.
With the help of officers like DSP Aneela whose father’s envision them in stronger roles, we can move a step ahead for more gender parity in Pakistan’s police forces.
Photo Credits: UNDP
Photo Credit: Jamil Akhtar