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In India, police units against violence against women

Ⓒ AFP – CHANDAN KHANNA – | Police officers from a special unit composed solely of
women patrol the city of Jaipur (north-west India) on 14 June
2017 to combat violence against women

Armed with walkie-talkies, cameras and sticks, Indian police
officers criss-cross the streets of Jaipur, a tourist town in
northwestern India, to rule the law in this country where
40,000 rapes are recorded every year.

Known for its palaces and forts, the capital of the Indian
state of Rajasthan has since May a special police unit,
composed solely of women. Around 50 officers patrol near bus
stops, in parks and around universities, where the risks are
highest in this area.

In this nation where sexual harassment or gritty
interpellations are too often treated lightly by the
authorities, these police officers intend to maintain
order.

“The message we want to send is that we have no tolerance
for crimes against women,” says Kamal Shekhawat, who heads the
unit.

India has a deplorable record in terms of sexual violence.
Experts believe that official statistics on rape are only the
tip of the iceberg and that most cases are never reported or
listed.

The national police force is largely male, with women
constituting only 7% of the total.

Ⓒ AFP – CHANDAN KHANNA – | Police officers from a special unit composed solely of
women patrol the city of Jaipur (north-west India) on 14 June
2017 to combat violence against women

For activists who try to combat sexual violence, this
discourages victims from filing complaints because they will be
judged on their appearance, behavior and sometimes even accused
of having sought to be raped.

The shame of sexual assault in a profoundly patriarchal
society, coupled with fears of reprisals, means that many
abuses are never reported and their perpetrators are not
harassed.

The police in Jaipur hope that the exclusively feminine
character of their unit will allow some women to get out of
their silence.

“Women in the police are more empathetic, the victims feel
more confident and are able to express themselves more freely
in front of them,” Shekhawat said.

– Karate –

Ⓒ AFP – CHANDAN KHANNA – | Police officers from a special unit composed solely of
women patrol the city of Jaipur (north-west India) on 14 June
2017 to combat violence against women

In a park in Jaipur, agent Saroj Chodhuary descends from his
scooter and approaches a group of women in sari to introduce
himself.

“You can call us or even send us a message on Whatsapp and
we’ll get there right away,” she said, planted in her khaki
uniform, a white motorcycle helmet screwed to the skull.

“Your identity will not be revealed, so you can feel free to
file a complaint, if someone harasses you on the phone or
bother you, let us know. Do not do it justice yourself,” she
adds .

His authority seems to impress the small group, where many
share their own experiences of harassment.

Radha Jhabua, a 24-year-old mother, said she wanted to file
a complaint against a neighbor who was following her but was
dissuaded by her husband, who feared that this would give their
family a bad reputation.

“He told me to shut up and wait for him to change his
behavior,” she said.

To accomplish their mission, all the police officers in the
unit have benefited from three months of training in martial
arts.

“We were taught how to drive a scooter
and how to do karate and self-defense, because sometimes
troublemakers can threaten us physically, and our own security
is paramount,” said Sarod Chokey.

The problem of sexual violence in this country of 1.25
billion people has entered the spotlight worldwide in an
atrocious rape meeting in Delhi in 2012.

Since that case, India has strengthened its legislation
against such attacks and hastened judicial proceedings in the
related cases. It also wants to hire more women in the police,
with the objective that they make up a third of the police
force.

Special units like Jaipur, “it’s a very good decision,” said
Ram Lal Gujar, a resident of the pink city.

“When a man gets trapped by these women, the others are hot
on the buttocks, they will have to amend their behavior”.

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