Madhya Pradesh women help desks earn global praise

| | New Delhi
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Madhya Pradesh women help desks earn global praise

Sunday, 10 March 2024 | Archana Jyoti | New Delhi

The Madhya Pradesh Government’s initiative to set up specialised help desks (SHDs) for women in local police stations in the State which led to increased registration of gender-based violence and criminal cases, especially those staffed by female officers compared with those without, has earned global accolades.

The Northern State’s police reform measures highlighted by University of Virginia professors Sandip Sukhtankar and Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner – in collaboration with a University of Oxford researcher in their study ‘Policing in Patriarchy’ has been recently honored by the Financial Times with a prestigious Responsible Business Education Award in the academic research category.

The award recognizes the best academic research with a societal impact that has influenced policy or practice with the juries noting that such research prompts new police training modules on gender.

The study spanning two-year said that those stations with WHDs registered 14 per cent more “first information reports (FIRs)”, which led to criminal proceedings, as well as a staggering 1,000 per cent more domestic incident reports, which can initiate civil proceedings. It may be mentioned here that during Covid pandemic, while violence against women had increased, a few victims had approached the police stations manned by males.

“As in many parts of the world, and particularly in India, these types of cases simply go unreported,” said Sukhtankar, an associate professor of economics in UVA’s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and co-director of the University’s Democracy Initiative’s Corruption Lab on Ethics, Accountability and the Rule of Law.

“And the essential first step is registration of cases. Previous estimates suggest that anywhere from 95 to 99% of cases are not reported, and even fewer are registered,” he said about the findings from the largest randomized controlled trial of police reform measures to date.

It suggested that deliberate measures designed to make police officers more responsive to women’s security needs, and the presence of female officers in visible positions of authority, can be effective in making the police more accountable to women and in increasing women’s access to the justice system.

 “The judicial system in India is hugely backlogged and problematic and has a lot of issues, but just the fact that thousands more women are able to even access the justice system because of this intervention is a huge deal,” Sukhtankar continued.

“Everybody who works on these topics in India knows sort of how hard it is to move the needle on this,” he added.

This indicates that women were more willing to come forward and report incidents of violence when provided with specialized support and assistance at police stations.

Early last year, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too launched the facility of WHDs in 500 police stations in the State to be operated by women police officers.

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