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Delhi Crime, on Netflix, provides a different perspective on the Nirbhaya case, and the portrayal of female cops in the series is refreshing. But what about real female police officers?
We will never forget ‘Nirbhaya’, – Jyoti Singh who was brutally raped and murdered in 2012 . Her tragic end was the beginning of a tsunami of voices speaking out against patriarchy and injustice. India has never been the same after her. We have heard so many versions of her story, and every time our heart breaks.
In the new Netflix show Delhi Crime, however, we are shown a startlingly different perspective through the eyes of the Delhi Police. Shefali Shah stars as Vartika Chaturvedi, the DCP of the South District, who is under pressure to nab the men who raped and threw Deepika (Nirbhaya) and her male friend off a moving bus. She trusts no one in Delhi, except herself and her handpicked team to do this, even as they use unconventional methods to obtain the necessary resources, as there is no time to deal with red tape and paperwork.
The other female cops in the series are Neeti Singh (played by Rasika Dugal), who brilliantly portrays a trainee cop who is the point of contact between the DCP and Deepika and her family; and Vimla Bharadwaj (Jaya Bhattacharya), a Sub-Inspector and Juvenile Welfare Officer with 20 years of experience in the police force.
The male cast too does a fantastic job in this series. The story is anchored however, by the characters of Vartika and Neeti. Their performance as women who cannot help but be deeply affected by what has happened to another woman, but who must keep their emotions under control as they do their job is moving. While there have been other movies and shows featuring female cops, this particular series portray them with a refreshing clarity and strength.
It got me thinking about women police officers in India.
After the Nirbhaya case in 2012, many recommendations were made to hire more female personnel in police forces across the country. According to Kamal Kumar, former Director of the National Police Academy, India needed 3.3 lakh more police persons to allow fixed eight-hour shifts for the personnel. He had recommended that this entire number be recruited from women only. As per, Kanwaljit Deol, who was secretary and chair of the National Conference of Women in Police, a recommendation was made to hire 10,000 women to be hired at one go in each of the metros.
Yet, as per reports published last year, women constitute only 7.28 per cent of the police force in India. In the report, “Rough Roads to Equality: Women Police in South Asia,” CHRI found that women officers are usually given desk jobs or tasks that shield them from frontline policing. Less than 1% of policewomen in India occupy senior ranks and almost 90% of them serve as constables.
This, even as overall crimes against women rose from 3,29,243 incidents in 2015 to 3,38,954 incidents in 2016.
However, one reason why these numbers are going up is simply that more women are reporting crimes, instead of keeping silent, thanks to the all-woman police stations (WPS), according to this June 2018 study. However, the researchers did not find a significant change in the rates of more severe crimes against women, such as rapes or self-reported violence by intimate partners.
Not only are the numbers lacking, but the welcome is lacking too. Female police officers face many challenges, from lack of toilets to bulletproof vests that are uncomfortable because they were made for male bodies.
Policewomen are largely expected to be copies of policemen. “Madam Sir,” as Vartika is addressed by her juniors in Delhi Crime. The police forces have still not figured out how to maximize on the talents of female police personnel, and that is a lost opportunity indeed.
Hope is not lost however, and policewomen like Rema Rajeshwari in real life and Vartika Chaturvedi on screen are making a difference. May their tribe increase!
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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a
vijayalakshmi, there is another side to this too. We have seen this every field. Women do demand softer posting, lesser timing all in the name of Husband-kids-but I am a woman. Recently I had a run in with my husband’s colleague who refused to coordinate a session because the guest lecture was at 6pm. One of the male staff stepped in. If you want equal opportunity then put in equal hours without citing late hours as an excuse.
Thank you for your comment, Parwati. I agree that often women are not able to put in extra hours, while men do. However, I would you to take that a little further and question why that is so. I do not know anything about your two colleagues, but based on what life is like for most people in India, I think I can safely assume that your male colleague has a wife/mother/maid or some other woman in his life who manages his home for him. This leaves him free to take up extra work. On the other hand the woman most likely does have duties at home too. Men can get away with doing the minimum at home because there is no social expectation that they must manage the house. Conversely, a woman is always criticized for the slightest shortcoming. In-laws and husband’s still expect the woman to bear the burden of housework.
Unless men and women share the burden at home equally, it is unfair to ask them to share the burden at work equally. And to not give women opportunities citing this is double discrimination.
In my experience my female colleagues have actually been more productive as they make the most of the working hours. To say that they are “not as hard working” as men is absolutely wrong.
Organizations/managers should instead focus on looking at how they can help women and menmen bala life and work. Families should focus on equal distribution of work at home.
Preventing women from climbing up the ladder is not and can never be a fair solution.
My precise point. I’m giving up my day off because this woman wants to play Cinderella. If they cannot handle a job responsibility then they have no business being there, and feel entitled because they are woman.
She is not “playing Cinderella.” She is doing two jobs probably because she isn’t supported enough at home. If she chose to stay back at work, there would be enough people telling her she is a bad mother or wife. If she chooses to go home, there are people like you who refuse to acknowledge the contributions she makes during the hours that she is on the job and can only complain about how she left early. Either way no respite for her. The men on the other hand get praise for doing the minimum at home and all the cheers for “doing all the work” in office. So don’t talk to me about inequality.
The solution to this is only that men take up equal responsibility at home, leaving women free to pursue their careers and do their job. In fact, there are many scenes in this very series that show men picking up the ball at home because these women have to be at work constantly. That sadly, doesn’t happen for all women. I’m glad you’re able to manage it. Doesn’t mean that everyone can or should.
I do not subscribe to the opinion that women are or must be superwomen who manage both home and office. That is an unrealistic and patrirachal expectation.
Before you say people like me madam I have a medical practice, two daughters I teach theatre at the school of drama. I’ve been in and out of hospital both as a doctor and a patient. Which I why I resent my husband having to give up his time with us because this woman has a husband at home. Damn it the man who is stepping in has a WIFE, MOTHER etc. Who have a right to his time. Also the none of these women will take a down sizing in pay. I am talking as total woman
By the way I am not complaining. Her lack of responsibility reflects on the rest of us who do our jobs without our gender bothering us.
At no point have I questioned your commitment to your work. I’ve also said that I’m glad you are able to balance work and home. I’m only asking you to consider what aspects of your home life enable you to do that. Maybe your colleague does not have that support.
And this is between your colleague and you. I am talking about the bigger picture.
I do have a problem with your thought process that “some women are like this and so all women do not deserve opportunities.” I have never come across women who use their gender as a crutch. For most women in our country, coming to work and earning an income is a privilege. I’m sure they value that and put in the efforts accordingly.
I wil not respond to further comments on this, as I am not looking to debate or argue. I’ve put forth my point of view and you have yours.
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