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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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Trigger Warning: This deals with mental trauma and depression, and may be triggering for survivors.
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