Gender Rights and Democratic Police Governance: Covid-19 Insights and Challenges

By Rainuka Dagar

The worldwide accepted data of one in three women facing violence in their life time rose sharply during covid.  Since the pandemic violence against women has increased with nearly one in two reporting direct or indirect violence. Covid-19 exacerbated gender vulnerabilities in two separate domains. The emergency measures  placed additional responsibilities and powers on law enforcement agencies for public compliance to lockdowns, quarantining, use of masks et cetera. It  put in charge an ill-prepared police force with fragile public police relations that were now regulating the everyday lives of citizens, and women faced the brunt of an empowered security force.  The second domain that the imposition of C19 controls opened was that it pushed the crisis into people’s homes with workspaces, public places, services and existing support systems cut-off. The inequal gender power dynamics of the domestic domain meant that the social economic burden got shifted onto women –and gender-based violence became an immediate consequence. 

The discussion based on a pilot research focuses on the   contribution of the gender lens in strengthen democratic policing . The presentation also highlights the relevance of measuring invisible violence against women and  shares a tool to capture it. Included here are  contributions of a gender perspective in advancing democratic policing.

Strengthening democratic policing from a gender lens

  1. Gender underlines the  practice of Inclusive rather than an exclusive policing perspective .

Exclusive women police stations/women desks are an increasing response to make policing attuned to violence against women – there are segregated women police stations, women desks ; at times even a women only  force – such as the D11  in Malaysia. This approach continues in exclusive  gender trainings for women. The women police function in an exclusive space,  marginalised within the police force and ill-equipped to respond to the dynamics of citizen, safety and security. A democratic force cannot have silos in  population groups, based on demographics.

  • Police station staff are also survivors – findings point out that the women police staff are  themselves victimised. protections and safeguards to be applicable and strengthened for the police who are not a different tribe  and  need universal protections as due to them by virtue of being humans
  • Women survivors highlight the Intersectionality of social constructs that any democratic policing needs to respond to.
  • A police that is responsive to VAWG builds trust in local police and improves citizen confidence in the police and  legitimacy in the State
  • Gender lens emphasises the role of the police is to safeguard and protect citizens – address the risk factors, rather than only apprehend criminals. For women, the risk factors of the widespread prevalence of gender based violence and the risk of violations needs to be addressed, rather than only a response to the ever growing number of victims.