A newly introduced women police motorcycle squad is set to take to India’s Delhi streets in December, as reports of violence against women rise in the Indian capital.
The “Raftaar” or “Speed” squad of 600 policewomen will ride in pairs within the women’s police motorcycle squad. They’ll comb through the streets on state-of-art motorcycles. They will be equipped with guns, pepper sprays and body cameras. “Basically it is a robust street criminal containment strategy,” said Delhi police spokesman Dependra Pathak. “There will be a specifically designed helmets with ear-pieces. The pillion will carry a weapon like an AK-47 rifle and the rider carrying a 9 mm pistol. They will have all the accessories to make them effective on the ground”, he added.
Women and girls in India face multiple threats – from rape, abduction and murder over dowry to sexual harassment, acid attacks and child marriage. An October poll found Delhi, along with Brazil’s Sao Paulo, was the world’s worst megacity for sex crimes against women, earning it the unsavoury title of India’s “rape capital”.
Reports of violence against women in Delhi have almost doubled since 2012, with 11,588 crimes, such as kidnapping and assault, recorded up to Nov. 15 this year, police data shows. Indian authorities enacted stricter punishments for gender crimes, and set up a 24-hour women’s helpline, fast-track courts for rape cases and a fund to finance crisis centres for victims. Additionally, women’s desks in many of Delhi’s police stations have been established. Thousands of police received gender sensitization classes, and Delhi has more patrols, surveillance and checkpoints at night. But research by Human Rights Watch (HRW) of recent found that India’s criminal justice system continues to fail victims.
HRW said survivors of sex crimes often suffered humiliation at police stations and hospitals, police were frequently unwilling to register their complaints and victims and witnesses received little protection. “While it is important to have a woman officer, particularly during testimony gathering in sexual violence cases, putting more women on patrol will not necessarily solve the problem,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director. “What is needed is better training for the entire police force, so that survivors are treated with respect and dignity, that the investigation is properly done to ensure evidence-based convictions”.
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