Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) in the Pakistani Parliament, in collaboration with Heinrich Boll Stiftung organized a one-day roundtable meeting to initiate a dialogue with political parties on best ways to strengthen capacities of women police in Pakistan. The conference took place in the Parliament House on the 27th of November, 2014. The participants of this conference were key stakeholders including women parliamentarians from all parties, MNAs and Senators, representatives from the Interior Ministry, National Police Bureau, IGs, DIGs, and Women police from provincial police and representatives of the civil society.
Ms. Shaista Pervez Malik, Secretary WPC welcomed the participants and gave concise introduction about objectives of the meeting. Ms. Malik said that Shaheed Mohtharma Benazir Bhutto launched seven police stations across the country in 1994; the idea was to provide women in distress quick and easy access to justice while retaining their dignity and respect. Unfortunately, women police stations were ignored and couldn’t achieve their goals due to lack of resources, lack of support from the senior management and without any legal status with limited authority. Therefore, these police stations stayed behind to fulfill the needs of 50% population and as a result many cases of gender based violence go unreported while benefitting the perpetrators.
WPC took an initiative and examined the police stations and published a report based on primary evidence, on state of women policing which not only highlighted their issues but also proposed recommendations in resolving them. WPC members played an active role in lobbying for increase in the salaries of women police officers and providing transport facility to them.
Ms. Marion Mueller, Country Director Heinrich Boll Stiftung Pakistan appreciated the role of women parliamentarians, highlighted the strong and successful partnership between HBS and WPC for the last two decades. Ms. Mueller shared about the HBS vision and activities which empower women in different fields, gender related issues, challenges and women’s participation in Pakistani politics.
Key note speaker Mr. Balgihur Rehman, Hon. State Minister for Interior, appreciated the work of WPC. He noted that government has planned to increase women police stations in the country; there is only one in Islamabad which is not sufficient. Currently we have 1% women police staff but it should increase from 1% to 5% in 2016. Each police station will have gender desk, different legal frameworks are placed but still gaps needs to be filled, he added.
Ms. Huma Chughtai (Law, Governance and Human Rights Specialist) set the stage through power point presentation on historical overview, the role of police And why women police needed, Police, Crime management and Women etc. Ms. Chughtai said that police is a mirror image of the society and hence it corresponds to the changes in the society. In 2011, the United Nations conducted a study; the results documented a clear correlation between the number of women police and reported cases of violence against women. It clearly depicts that with more women police officers there are more reports from the victims. She also mentioned the issue of terrorism and women’s vulnerability due to lack of women police.
Mr. Ihsan Ghani, DG National Police Bureau gave overview of the status of women police in Pakistan and discussed issues and challenges. According to UN standards women police should be 20% but in Pakistan it is only 1% including 20 women officers. Mr. Ghani also added that most of the women police stations are non-functional, far and lacking basic facilities. Mr. Ghani shared future plans and hurdles towards women police stations and reducing violence against women.
Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson of National Commission on the Status of Women said that indicators of violence against women need to be checked. For this purpose NCSW took initiative to get the data because it’s working as a watchdog instead of institute. She also added that NCSW is willing to take part in giving training to women police regarding gender related issues.
Ms. Mossarat Qadeem, Executive director of PAIMAN shared that police is ill equipped and untrained to tackle terrorism. As a result during or after suicidal attack police is unable to help women victims. We need to train women police as a first responders in attacks, she emphasized. Women police can play active role in gathering information therefore they need proper training and well equipped in this regards.
Mr. Ayaz Sadiq, Speaker of National Assembly, was the chief guest who concluded the session. Mr. Sadiq appreciated WPC, NCSW and other institutions who are working to empower women and strengthen their capacity to tackle women related issues at police stations. He said that they would continue their endeavors and propose new legislation to make women policing more effective.
During the Q&A session women police officers shared discrimination in trainings, positioning and placement of women in police services. Although some police officers also pointed out the positive attitude of educated girls who are willing to work as a women police. Senior police officers said that they have planned to organize capacity building training for women and men about issues like human rights, violence against women etc.
The participants emphasized the need to increase the number of women police officers so their concerns are integrated at policy and decision making levels.