Although in recent years the issue of women’s rights has increasingly entered the society’s consciousness, the movement still is in its infancy, according to Sunita Toor, Principal Lecturer in Criminology, Sheffield Hallam University.
Hundreds of women and girls each year continue to be victims of gender violence in India. The latest National Crime Records Bureau report reveals that crimes against women have gone up 34% in the past four years. This again is only a small proportion as most victims hesitate to come forward and seek help from the police, Toor said.
In the past two years Sheffield Hallam University’s Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice has been working in India leading a project called Justice for Her which seeks to improve access to justice for women and girl who are victims of violence. The program is a collaborative effort with the Indian police in the states of Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
Changing On Ground Perceptions
The project has sought to ensure that the police prioritise the protection of women and girls who have been victims of violence and ensure they don’t fear being victimised again.
Justice for Her has developed a training programme for police officers and lawyers for appropriately and effectively dealing with cases involving violence against women, and securing justice for victims.
Toor stated that the training uses a wide range of approaches, such as role play, group discussions, lectures, simulation exercises and self-reflection workshops. The aim of the program is to help police have full ownership of the issue, and feel fully equipped to deliver the right support and protection to female victims.
The program organisers visited individual stakeholders across the states to ensure the training programme was informed by them while also meeting victim’s needs and the nuances of each state, she said.
Better Understanding Of Victims
The training programme recently concluded its sessions with senior police trainers across all major police training academies in the four states. It also held sessions with those having a strategic remit of dealing with crimes against women.
In Toor’s opinion, the program has changed how police offers are trained about gender violence in the states, increasing the focus on “empathy, the victim and moral principles”, and has also helped to challenge current police strategies . It has empowered the police personnel to perform their duties far more effectively, without prejudice or discrimination, she noted.
According to Toor, such changes can also help tackle the limited impact of the government’s recent legislation to deal with violence against women and girls.
Training To Be Adopted Into Teaching Curriculum
Toor stated that the success of the project has led to the training being included in the curriculum for many new police recruits in the four states. It is also slated to be extended to existing officers in the field.
As a part of the project senior Indian police visited the UK to observe how British police officers tackle gender violence.
Following a model seen in the UK, the MP state police force has said that it will open 51 one-stop victim support centres for women. In these centres, female victims will be provided necessary support and crucial services including legal advice, medical attention and counselling.