The constitution of Nepal has guaranteed 33 per cent female participation in all governmental bodies. This provision has helped aspiring females to participate in the public sphere, and it has also helped to create role models for other females. Due to this positive provisioning, many women who were suppressed by the cultural gender roles and traditional patriarchal norms, are coming out to serve the nation in their desired field.
However, the participation of women in the police is still lower compared to men. Out of 64,323 Nepal Police personnel, 92 per cent are male whereas females constitute only eight per cent (5,145 personnel). This is a country where crimes related to women and children are on the rise, but there are few female officers to enforce the law. According to a police report, as many as 19,565 crimes like rape, attempt to rape, polygamy, and violence against women, untouchability, child marriage, and sexual abuse were recorded in the fiscal 2018-19. These crimes related to women need to be handled by gender-sensitive women officers for effective results because victims, especially women and girls, find easy to interact with female police officers than males.
Basically, the fields which need more physical effort are still considered as men’s domain. Due to the biological phenomena like menstruation, pregnancy, and post-natal period, it is difficult for women to prove themselves in physically demanding arenas like police. Besides this fact, social roles also shape one’s ambition. Due to the household roles defined for women and for which they are conditioned, which is also considered natural for women, women feel double the burden to participate in sectors, especially when these sectors are termed challenging as well as strenuous for women due to odd working hours. Likewise, the women police officers are mostly assigned administrative work than investigative due to the same-mentioned reasons. Getting an investigative position is hard-won for majority of women in police force.
Now, the constitution of Nepal 2015 has ensured 45 per cent reservation for the inclusion of historically backward groups, among which 33 per cent reservation are for women. This provision is a positive step towards gender equality which can bring significant changes in the police force.
Realizing the importance of female participation in law enforcement agency, the second Conference of the UN Police Chiefs had also recommended that the UN member countries should increase the number of female police by 20 per cent, but Nepal Police lags far behind.
The government of Nepal has taken a step to ensure female participation, but it has lots of works to do to safeguard women’s participation in the police force. The legal system is just a guideline which provides direction to the action plan. Inclusion cannot be achieved with legal change alone. So, participation needs to be encouraged through various interventions. Some efforts can be made to encourage women’s participation in these sectors, like, provisions of leave, allowance, and meaningful reservation may be helpful. To gain desired result, socialization process, education, family, cultural norms, and government policies, all things play critical role.
Along with these changes, social norms also need to be changed. Because without changing the thought process of people, aiming to achieve any structural change is a far cry.
Author: Prabha Poudel