April 2nd, 2018 Posted In: social

Team TNV

The Women’s Front (WF) of Aam Aadmi Party Goa, on Monday petitioned the Superintendent of Police, South, demanding a full fledged women police station (WPS) in South Goa. The delegation of women members led by AAP Goa leader Rajeshree Nagarsekar, in their petition titled, Travesty of Women Police Station (WPS), WF  sought to seek redressal of multiple problems plaguing the facility housed in a dilapidated room, in a corner of the south Goa police headquarters. 
“Deprived of all basic amenities and severely lacking in facilities, the south Goa WPS, which is supposed to cater to the entire south Goa women population, belies all government claims of women’s development and empowerment,” claimed Nagarsekar while adding that the problems faced by the survivors and their relatives is regularly brought to the notice of WF during their ongoing outreach program conducted under the banner, Women as Leaders for Change.
“Fears of reprisal, social stigma, poor conviction rates and mis-treatment by an overwhelmingly male police force have been major reasons for holding women back. Therefore, the setting up of women police stations (WPS) with the main objective to tackle
gender violence, is a result of widespread under-reporting of crimes by female victims, especially when it comes to sexual violence. WPS were introduced to cater to and address issues exclusively pertaining to women: physical abuse, sexual harassment, dowry
harassment, domestic violence, cases involving out-raging the modesty of women, voyeurism, stalking, etc prevalent in Goa,” she added. 
“However, as police help desks for women, which were set up at some police stations few years ago were rendered defunct, owing to lack of women staff, the government announced replacing these with ‘women help bench’ round the clock, manned by women, with lady police sub inspectors — to assist women in distress. But this too has been rendered a mere pompous announcement. On paper, there are two women police stations in the state of Goa. However, while the north Goa WPS is in a workable condition though not up to the mark, the women and child protection cell (WCPC) housed at the south Goa police headquarters in Margao is in a sorry condition. Despite growing cases of crime against women, the State government has failed to open more women’s police stations as
mandated by law nor have been able to provide the existing ones with required infrastructure,” read the petition.
Nagarsekar pointed out that infrastructural neglect and departmental shortcomings have reduced the facility, located in the heart of the
commercial town, to a mere room, equally dismal for the staff and those visiting it. 
“The facility was conceptualised as a place that could freely and confidently be approached by women wishing to lodge complaints, and serve as a safe shelter for women accused of an offence. Given that it has jurisdiction over the entire district, the women’s police station
was envisaged as employing a full-fledged force and performing all the other functions of a police station, including investigation.
The dismal state of affairs is symptomatic of the discrimination against women that is characteristic of our society. Basically marred by shortage of staff, facilities, leave alone any police inspector or a police sub-inspector heading the cell, the unit – constituted to attend to grievances of women and children – is manned by a lone lady head constable. This leaves it functioning under the Margao police station in-charge, who is a male officer, thus defeating the very purpose for which it was constituted. Certain sensitive incidents can be confided or narrated with confidence only to a woman police without inhibitions which otherwise would be held back because of woman’s innate sense of modesty or shame in disclosing it, she lambasted. 
The petition further reads, “Given the host of problems faced by the unit, one is bound to question its utility. Although this unit is deprived of every basic facility, AAP Women’s Front nevertheless defend its existence since it is vital to have a police set-up that caters exclusively to women. This unit ought to be made fully functional and equipped to investigate women’s cases and allowed
to fulfil its objective.”
Therefore AAP Women Front has  demanded:
1. Provide requisite staff: In order to make this unit more effective and efficient in functioning, wherein women and children feel as a safe zone to express their complaints without a sense of fear and hesitation, Women Front demands that this WCPU be upgraded on priority with required staff strength under a competent and skilled women police officer on similar lines as the one at Panjim.
2. Cater to all crimes against women & children: Women Front demands that the WCPU should also look into all crimes against women and children in addition to crimes against children under the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 and reported cases of missing children. Women’s Front demands that the WCPU should also act as an anti-trafficking cell for the South Goa district to keep tab on traffickers, coordinate, carry out raids and rescue operations with the assistance of the local police station and NGOs.
3. Provide trained personnel: Women Front demands that as the law mandates, the unit should be staffed by specially trained female personnel and aim to improve the ability of the police to respond to the unique needs of women survivors. This unit should offer improved reporting facilities; support to the victims in matters such as medical care, counselling and help survivors to initiate legal action. It should also play a role in raising awareness about women’s rights and women’s security needs within the community.
4. Receptive and supportive to survivors: Women Front believes that this unit would be favourably to women, only if they can be commonly viewed as being receptive and supportive to survivors. Indications of positive results include increases in reporting and convictions and expanding survivors’ access to services (e.g. counselling, legal assistance and other social and economic supports. The unit should result in increase in reporting of crimes against women and children and also result in a higher conviction rate.
5. Set up women’s cell or desk: Women Front demands that the State government should focus on setting up women’s cell or desk at each police station so that more and more women can go there freely and report crime being committed against them. There should be women cops at each police station trained to address the problems of women. A women’s desk at each police station will help in checking crime against women. We also need to have more women cops recruited and trained to address their issues.
6. Strengthen women-run help desks in all PSs: Women police personnel are key to tackling gender violence, but in the event of lack of exclusive hubs, Women Front advocates boosting the number of women in regular stations and strengtheningwomen-run help desks. Such facilities need political support to ensure that the women who operate them are given adequate training and resources and such initiatives be widely recognised for combating growing cases of domestic violence in the state.
7. Reach out to vulnerable groups: On the ground, Women Front is concerned that the unit is not reaching some of the most vulnerable victims, in particular sexual violence survivors. The aim should be to empower women, to make them more confident to approach police without hesitation. Women don’t usually come to the police station after just one incident. The focus should be on stopping any violence.
8. Provide required infrastructure: The WCPU has been functioning from a single room and the same is shared by the anti-human trafficking cell. The space allotted to this WCPU is one room. It is mandatory that there be a counselling room and a room for
recording the statements, besides a waiting room for those accompanying the complainant or the victim.
Therefore, the overwhelming demand of AAP Goa Women Front is shift the facility to the old collectorate building, just across the police headquaters building in which it is presently housed, as the old collectorate building not only has ample space to run the facility but in our view, having a dedicated space for the WCPU will also serve the purpose of such facility which is basically to address issues involving women, to empower and encourage women to come to the facility without fear, as most cases never come to light as victims don’t turn up at a station fearing the police.
Hence shifting the unit to this building will create a friendly atmosphere to deliver justice
and meeting this demands should be the top priority of the government. 
“It is time the government focuses on improving policing. Things would not change for survivors of crimes till our police force remains men-dominated and where women fear to approach police stations to report crime against them. Complete overhaul of the police system is the need of the hour,” said Nagarsekar.

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Team TNV

The author is a senior Journalist working in Goa for last one and half decade with the experience of covering wide-scale issues ranging from entertainment to politics and defense.

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