Challenging the stereotype

Gulshan Akhtar, is one of the two female SHO’s in Kashmir and heads Srinagar’s only women’s police station at Rambagh. She talks to Aliya Bashir about the challenges of women police.

Kashmir Life: How did you join the police? Did you face any opposition in your home?

Gulshan Akhtar: I had always an interest for a non-traditional career. Since my father was in police and I had a good exposure to police environment. Whenever, I would visit my father, I would hardly see any policewoman. So, I thought why not enter the male dominated bastion. My family has always respected my decisions. Whatever I am today, I owe it to them.

KL: What challenges do women working in the police face?
GA: In a place like Kashmir, the job of policewomen is very challenging. Women have to continually prove that they can be effective in what has traditionally been viewed as a male-oriented profession.

KL: What is the situation with regards to crime against women?
GA: Since January this year, we have registered 100 cases, mostly related to domestic violence, marital feuds, harassment at work places and eve teasing. Out of these 13 are criminal cases, which have been referred for further proceedings.
Domestic violence against women in J&K is widespread but very few cases are reported as victims are reluctant to talk. Dowry too is an ugly reality with ceaseless demands leading to a high degree of stress.

KL: Are just two women police stations in Kashmir enough in dealing with crimes against women?
GA: Given the present status of violence against women, each district should have a women police station. Women face innumerable problems in urban as well as rural areas.

KL: What is the situation with regards to suicide among women?
GA:  Last year we had three suicide cases. This year no such cases were registered. But lots of unnatural deaths are rampant these days, wherein family fails to come forward mostly due to social-stigma. There are cases where women have committed suicide because of domestic violence, and many deaths have taken place due to demands for dowry. Other reasons are love-affairs and education related stress.

KL: Women involvement in various crimes is reportedly increasing. What kind of cases do you encounter?
GA: Since more and more women are coming out for jobs, they are more prone to crime and their accessibility to crime has also increased. The crimes related to women are mostly elopement cases, marital feuds, suicidal attempts, drug-abuse and few years back we saw the sex-scandal.

KL: Women often hesitate to go to police. What efforts have you made to reverse it?
GA: Generally, due to social stigma attached to speaking out against family, women do not report domestic violence. Women also do not prefer to seek police help mainly because of the legal hassles that follow. Judicial procedures are not women friendly as domestic violence is not seen as a serious issue.
Here we try to avoid escalation of the confrontation between two parties and try to bring about some resolution.

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