“Life as women isn’t easy,” says Anila (not her real name), a newly recruited sub-inspector in the Lahore police while talking to Pakistan Today. “As a women police officer, it is still no walk in the park.”
In the last decade, many women were recruited on various posts in the police. The once male-dominated profession is now open to women who have been trained as police officials.
As in any other walk of life, the challenges women face range from a general undertone of sexism to open disapproval of their male colleagues to their simple presence, or as we will find out, their absence from the office.
“We are never treated as colleagues, rather just as ‘ladies’,” said Anila. “If we are out pursuing a case they create conspiracies against us by telling the in-charge that we did not come in, or that we are never in the office, or that maybe we are at home or doing something personal.”
She said that most of the time, they know that the female police officers are out trying to solve a case, but it does not stop them from openly bickering about them.
“The best female police officer, in their eyes, will be a rung lower than even the most inept male police officer,” Anila said.
She said that even their subordinate male police officers are dismissive towards them and hardly ever listen to their orders.
This lack of respect, however, is not limited to male colleagues. The institution itself sets the tone for the way women are treated in the department.
Anila said that most of the time, ranking female police officers are even denied a separate office which is their right under the law.
Anila is not alone. But many are scared to come forward as they might lose their jobs. Even Anila was not comfortable using her real name as she thought it would most definitely cost her the job.
“When we ask for minor things like tea or food, the constables are utterly negligent. I do not mind doing my own work, but when my colleagues get similar protocol, why shouldn’t I?” said Simran (again, not her real name), another sub-inspector.
Even for on duty tasks the vehicles are given to policemen first. “When I ask for the mobile there is usually a puncture to be fixed, or the air conditioner isn’t working or similar absurd excuses,” she said.
There are 442 women police officers in Lahore. Of them, 367 are constables, 44 are sub-inspectors (SIs), 20 are head constables, 14 are assistant sub-inspectors (ASIs) while two are inspectors.
They are among the 3,000 women who are part of the Punjab Police, which is the largest law enforcement agency in the country consisting of 180,000 police officials in total.
The woman sub-inspectors also explained that there is a certain jealousy if the policewomen do their job on time and correctly. “If we are doing our jobs on time, the Moharrar (duty officer) and the officers-in-charge become uncooperative. Or they shut us up by saying why do you have to be so vigilant,” Simran said.
If a female admin advises them in front of subordinates there is an instant rebuttal from the male officers. “Be it a case registration or other matters we can’t get a word in,” Anila said.
Some senior policewomen feel that to become independent officers, they have to go through the pressure. “It depends on how much you let the other person interfere. I for one do not let anyone in on my cases, what I write and do is the final word,” said Misbah, another newly recruited sub-inspector while talking to Pakistan Today.
THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS:
Recalling a story of how they were called at night for a meeting, she said, when the policewomen asked not to be called in so late they were told that their contract mentions a 24-hour duty. “If you depend on men they will take advantage. It’s crucial for us to be independent and I realised that day that if we want equal rights we need to work as hard as the men,” said Misbah.
But working hard alone is not the answer for these women. “Many of the men deal with only one case a week. They spend the rest of the time in their offices gossiping over tea. But because we are here to prove ourselves, we usually handle three cases in a week, sometimes two in a day if the cases are minor,” Anila said.
One would think that that would help women gain some respect if one hadn’t been paying attention to this piece, that is.
WINDS OF CHANGE:
“They simply blame us for destroying the culture of the office by doing so many cases,” Anila said.
But while the problems for women in the police are daunting, these women probably know what they are doing. They definitely appear equal to the task.
“I think times are changing and we just need to give the men some more time to adjust to these changes,” Misbah said.
Lahore DIG Operations Haider Ashraf, while talking to Pakistan Today, denied that there is a problem, institutional or otherwise.
“We treat these women with a lot of respect and they are always welcome to come to me personally with all their problems,” the DIG said, and added, “I do not believe that we have any form of harassment in our department, the couple of cases we had were dealt with an iron hand, the concerned inspectors were punished and suspended.”
He encouraged policewomen to come forward and voice their concerns to him directly. “The SP, DSP and I are available for them at all times,” he said.