According to studies conducted by different police counties in the United States of America since their introduction to police forces in 1970s, women police personnel are very effective due to lesser reliance on authoritarianism, minimal usage of brawns and better communication with the general populace.

Women police personnel are adept at handling situations without letting violence takeover. According to the Police Foundation, a premier think tank in the United States, women police personnel are relatively calmer and don’t lose their composure easily. In 1974, the Police Foundation in a nationwide survey found that while dealing with violent situations involving inebriated and angry individuals or criminals, women police personnel rarely relied on force.

In fact, they were able to deal with the situation using their guile and superior communication skills vis-à-vis their male counterparts. This survey was used to counter the myth that women police personnel would fail as patrol officers. In 1988, Joseph Balkin, wrote in the Journal of Police Science and Administration, analysed the involvement of women in police forces in USA since 1974 and tried analysing the reasons for their success. He majorly credited it to their attitude of viewing policing as an important public service, unlike men who simply viewed it as yet another job. This made women personnel more effective and efficient on the field.

In 1992, the Christopher Commission was appointed to look into the riots in Los Angeles, which took place as a reaction to the Rodney King assault incident- where a group of police personnel brutally beat up an unarmed black civilian. The committee while indicting Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for excessive force, said that- “Virtually every indicator examined by the commission establishes that female LAPD officers are involved in excessive use of force at rates substantially below those of male officers.

Many officers, both male and female, believe female officers are less personally challenged by defiant suspects and feel less need to deal with defiance with immediate force or confrontational language.” In 2002, the National Centre for Women and Policing, in a survey spread across seven major police departments located in populated cities found that an average women police officer was eight times less likely to use excessive force vis-à-vis her male counterpart and chances of any complaint of excessive force was two to three times less likely to be filed against her vis-à-vis her male counterpart. Greater number of women police personnel are also needed as instances of crimes involving women- either as the victim/s or the perpetrator/s is increasing.


Initially, police forces in India were against recruiting women. In 1961-1962, Punjab Police sought the opinion of different state administrations with regards to recruitment of women. The then Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police did not approve of such a step as women in India were considered to be ill-equipped and not ready to take up a difficult job as members of policing fraternity.

However, due to changes in society- with crimes against or by women, juvenile delinquents and domestic crimes against women forced both state governments and the centre to step up recruitment of women police personnel. However, their numbers remain extremely low to this day. According to data maintained by Ministry of Home Affairs, women constitute a total of roughly 6 to 7 per cent of all police manpower in India. Tamil Nadu in 1997 passed a labour law that called for reserving 33 per cent of jobs in all fields for women.

This led to a spurt in number of women police personnel in Tamil Nadu to about 12 per cent. However, countries like South Africa (29 per cent), United States of America (14 per cent), Australia (30 per cent) and Canada (18 per cent) amongst others have more number of women police personnel. Furthermore, roughly 80 per cent of the existing women police personnel in India are engaged in non-core policing activities. It is also to be noted that Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) which include- Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) have started recruiting women police personnel very recently.

There are about 17.22 lakh police personnel in India. Women police personnel constitute roughly 6.11% or 1.05 lakh personnel as of 2014. It is to be noted that Chandigarh (15 per cent), Tamil Nadu (12 per cent) and Andaman and Nicobar (11 per cent) have the most number of women police personnel percentage wise, while Meghalaya (3 per cent), Assam (1 per cent) and Nagaland (1 per cent) have relatively few policewomen in their ranks. States like Meghalaya and Jharkhand have been able to double up the percentage and numbers of women police personnel in recent times. Rajasthan surprisingly, has been able to triple the number of its women police personnel, but on a national scale, the number of women police personnel are still way below adequate levels. According to the United Nations, globally women constitute an average of 9-13 per cent of total police personnel. Thus, India lags behind the global average as well.


These are the structural problems plaguing women police personnel in India-

1- Flawed recruitment process- There is no single cadre for women police personnel to be recruited at in several states. The entry level jobs in states like Constable, Sub-Inspector/Assistant Sub-Inspector, and Deputy Superintendent of Police, are mostly reserved for men and as a result the career advancement and growth for women in policing jobs is restricted. Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh have been novel exception to this flawed recruitment process. A parliamentary committee in the recent past suggested changing this policy and added that allocation of funds for police modernisation is linked compulsorily to change in recruitment process.

2- Male bias in policing circles- According to studies carried out, women police personnel are perceived to be less competent and able than their male counterparts. As a result, they are often not allowed to take part in core policing activities and have to work doubly hard to expel such notions.

3- Instances of harassment- Physical and sexual harassment of women is high in policing jobs as well. According to studies carried out, roughly 7.5 per cent women police personnel in Haryana and Kerala have faced harassment at workplace. In developed countries like US and UK, such numbers are as high as 50 per cent. Thus, there are chances of under-reporting of such incidents in India.

4- Lack of facilities- While lady IPS officers are given access to a lot of facilities and perks, their state level counterparts have access to very few of the same facilities. For instance, they lack access to toilets and creches. Maternity policies too are skewed. Women IPS officers are given maternity leave of 6 months and child care leave up to two years, but not all states provide maternity leave up to 6 months. In some states, maternity leave is restricted to 4 and a half months for state cadre, policewomen and maternity leave of two years is allotted to policewomen only in the states of Haryana and Bihar. In most of the states, getting maternity leave is rarely granted to policewomen. According to a central parliamentary committee report, funds meant to create child care facilities for women police personnel are greatly unused.

5- Erratic working hours- It has been found in a study by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) that 90 per cent of women police personnel face work and family related stress due to erratic work hours. In most cases, they were working in shifts of 12-15 hours rather than the mandated 8 hours. Most of these women as a result face turbulence in managing their domestic lives as the traditional responsibilities still lie on their shoulders.

6- Segregation of duties- Many states like Jharkhand limit the policing activities for women personnel. They include them in escort duties involving prisoners of the same gender, juvenile delinquency and crimes where women are involved as perpetrators or victims. Therefore they do not get to be a part of core policing tasks and do not get to develop skills that can help them progress in career like their male counterparts. They are forced to take up administrative jobs and this reinforces male stereotypes that women should not enter male dominated domains like police forces. Very few district level heads of police forces are women. Women Station House Officers (SHOs) are mostly found in all women police stations and not otherwise. As a result very few women are found in leadership roles in Indian police forces.

7- Lack of promotion and retention- Women police personnel face problems in problem in promotions due to separate cadres for men and women at state level police posts. Unlike male constables who majorly end up retiring at the rank of sub-inspectors, women constables rarely get promoted to the rank of head constables. According to BPRD, only 16 women occupy the posts of DGP/Spl/DG/ADGP, 20 women occupy the post of DIGs and just 1250 odd inspector level posts. As seen in the graph below, the number of policewomen in leadership roles in very negligible.


The following measures should be taken to promote welfare of women police personnel and also encourage more women to join in the future-

1- There is a need to re-look into the role of women police personnel. They should be allowed to take part in core policing activities and not be restricted to certain restricted jobs as seen in states like Jharkhand.

2- Measures should be taken to increase the number of women police personnel to 33 per cent. The release of police modernisation funds should be linked to increase in their numbers as previously suggested by parliamentary panel.

3- A national Conference for women in police should be regularly organised where women police officials from different ranks and states should be allowed to take part in it.

4- The central government should appoint a nodal officer to look into recruitment, training and promotion of women in different police forces with powers to recommend in case of finding any follies.

5- The BPRD should take up more studies on women police personnel and come up with a comprehensive policy on the working hours and facilities associated with women police personnel ranging from infrastructural like toilets to administrative like maternity leave for 2 years in all states.

6- The Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women should regularly look into conditions of women police personnel.

7- Allow more women police officers to take up leadership roles at the district level and at station level. There is also a need to ensure that women get to occupy roles at the top of police echelons, i.e. at the DG/IG level.

8- Separate cadres at the entry level should be done away with to ensure that discrimination in promotion and retention does not exist.

9- There should be active recruitment of women police personnel from diverse regions, religions, castes and ethnicities to ensure that the minority and weak sections of the society are thoroughly represented. Print and electronic media should be actively used to promote women to come out and try to get recruited in police forces.

10- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 should be actively implemented in workplaces involving women police personnel. A separate helpline should be set up for women personnel as there are concerns of many cases of sexual harassment going unreported due to concerns of privacy and safety.

11- All sorts of discrimination in service conditions that favour lady IPS officers over their state level counterparts should be done away with.

12- There should be toilets in every police station with creches and other associated services to help women personnel with children.

13- State governments and police forces should come up with a policy to allow women personnel to overcome the problem of working at odd hours.

14- Make training process at police training schools more women friendly and teach instructors to be gender sensitive.

15- Allow women police personnel to come up with their own associations at state level to ensure better communication of their grievances.

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