Sitting upright at their desks with a pile of papers and files surrounding them, these women police officers have a demeanour that justifies the position they hold in a traditionally male territory.
While some have chosen this profession with a desire to serve the public, there are some who dreamt of it since their childhood. No matter what their reason might be, they say they are proud to be a woman wearing a police uniform. Sunday Scape gets talking to some of these brave women police personnel to know their inside story.
“A woman doesn’t become strong after joining the police. A strong woman joins to be a police,” says Badugula Sumathi, IPS, with pride. With women moving into many professions that were once considered beyond their boundaries, these police officers say it is a high time the society overcomes these gender stereotypes.
“These stereotypes restrict women from doing so many things that she might wish to. We have to have an open approach not only about police but various other professions. Why can’t a woman be a firefighter and a man be a nurse? We as a society have to grow to give equal opportunities in any profession to both the genders,” says Swati Lakra, IG, Women Safety cell. Sharing her experience as a police officer, Swati says, “There is a lot of satisfaction in this job.
We get an opportunity to serve a lot of people. It is more about the smile on the victim’s face when we crack a case. Whether it is about rescuing a kidnapped person or helping a distressed woman, solving a murder case, recovery of some stolen goods, there is a lot of satisfaction when you solve a case.”
While women entering the police department is a fairly new concept with only around 2,600 police women serving today, these police officers share how they survived through the ups and downs.
“It is up to a woman how she wants others to treat her. You have to grab that respect from others. A woman has to be very professional and can’t allow others to treat her like a ‘woman police officer’. I’m an officer and that’s it. At the end of the day, it is the work that matters. Any police woman should be extremely good at her job and not give others any opportunity to say anything ill,” says Swati. When quizzed how they convince others of their opinion in the department, Sumathi says, “The way women understand a case and a situation is very different.
Also, the way we take the case forward to the solution might not be similar to a man’s approach. But whatever the approach, at the end, the solution has to be within the framework of law and widely accepted by the society.” Anita Kurmeti, Head Constable, Malakpet police station, shares, “Compared to earlier, public and the department have grown to be more respectful towards women and do not treat us any differently.”After Priyanka Reddy’s case, women cops are also doing three shifts just like their male counterparts, which wasn’t the case earlier.
Work- Life Balance
“In this kind of a profession, rather than you understanding your family, your family must understand you. We are mostly absent in our family life but we have to try some ways to compensate for the time lost,” says Sumathi. “One has to choose between family and duty in many situations in this job. A cop cannot give enough time to family like in other jobs. If your time with family is your priority, then this profession is a wrong choice,” says Thirumala Bhagya, Constable and a mother of a 14-month-old infant. “We only know what time we’ll come but what time we’ll return home is not in our hands. Sometimes, we have bandobast (a duty of maintaining peace and security at public events) when we stay on roads all night. Now, our families have also gotten used to our unpredictable timings,” says another constable, K Mamatha. It is not just the unpredictable timings; these police officers go through transfers where they leave their family and live alone through the years of posting.
Scope for Growth
“When the 50% population is women, 50% of Police Department should be women. Though we have a very long way for 50%, we hope there will be a lot of growth in the coming years,” says Swati. Going a step forward is the team of police who are working towards training men on the subjects of gender sensitisation. “Women’s safety should not be the concern of women officers alone. Everyone should know what the requirements of women are and should not be judgemental about them. We have just started the programme for gender sensitisation for our male personnel but we still have a long way to go,” says Swati. “We also have to ensure a women-friendly workplace for women entering the department. When we have women, we have to ensure they have basic facilities like good and separate washrooms and changing rooms,” she adds. Observing the changes from her first posting to today, a senior officer shares, “Now, women are more educated and so demand respect and know their rights better. Also, the police department today is more exposed to the society and one cannot simply behave as they wish with a colleague – be it a male or a female.”
For Aspiring Policewomen
“Choose this profession only if service is your passion. Otherwise, you won’t enjoy the job as much,” say the constables Anitha, Mamatha, Bhagya and Sowjanya who share the same opinion. “It is a service that will give you a lot of satisfaction. We under the Telangana Government ensure that the workplaces are women-friendly and will always support them in any kind of problems,” Swati concludes.