In response to the continuing outrage swirling in India over the recent death of a Delhi gang-rape victim, city officials in the capital plan to hire more policewomen who would be better able to deal with female crime victims.
The Hindustan Times reported that Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde ordered every police station in Delhi to have a minimum of nine female police officers, comprising at least two sub-inspectors and seven constables.
This is just one measure Delhi city officials have taken to upgrade the security and welfare for women in one of the most dangerous cities in India. Among other things, police will perform more night patrols, make more frequent checks on bus and other transport drivers, and prohibit buses with tinted windows or curtains.
At present, of the 75,000 members of the Delhi police force, only 6,750, or about 9 percent, are women, below the 10 percent mandate earlier set by the government.
Delhi has a total of 166 police stations.
Moreover, about two-thirds of the females currently in the department work at desk jobs, meaning that there are only about 2,000 women available to police the streets of the teeming metropolis. Consequently, many police stations in Delhi have no policewomen whatsoever.
“Sometimes, it becomes difficult for us to make an arrest or assist a female victim due to the non-availability of a female officer,” a Delhi police officer told the Times.
Meanwhile, six men, including one minor, have been charged with rape and murder in connection with the high-profile gang-rape of the 23-year-old medical student who was attacked in a private bus on Dec. 16 and subsequently died in a hospital in Singapore.
The adult defendants could face the death penalty if convicted.
"These kinds of incidents, and [outrage] against women and [the] weaker sections of our society are unacceptable to our democracy. These need to be curbed with an iron hand," Shinde said.
The police have come under severe criticism from protesters in the wake of the Dec. 16 rape -- women have long complained that the overwhelmingly male Delhi police force dragged their feet in investigating rape cases, or frequently blamed the victim when assaults occurred. Demonstrators are now demanding greater accountability for the police force.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.